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South Africa is in a state of shock at present due to recent developments involving crime against children. The funerals of babies and children have given us, as parents, pause for thought. It would appear as if young age is no longer a deterrent against violent crime.

Unfortunately, and most ashamedly, South Africa is statistically the number one nation in the world with regard to homicide, violent assault and Breaking and entering with resultant violence. Another proliferant crime globally is child-kidnapping either for the trade in humans, human organs or the feared “muthi murders”.

Parents across the geographical as well as the demographic spectrum in our nation are taking a huge risk every time we allow our kids to cross our threshold, whether it be for school or play purposes.

Crime has become a profession for many in South Africa, for any number of reasons, including the current socio-economic climate, the high unemployment rate as well as inherited social imbalances and because crime has become a profession, the perpetrators of crime have become more and more sophisticated in their methods.

Criminals have become more careful in their assessment of a victim’s vulnerability and generally group their targets as follows:

  1. Valuable Targets:
  • Banks (Including Cash in transit heists)
  • Casinos
  • Shopping centres
  • Individuals well dressed and carrying laptops etc.
  • School Children with expensive phones and Ipads
  • Affluent individuals and homes
  1. Soft Targets:
  • Schools
  • Old aged and retirement homes
  • Hospitals
  • Crèches
  • Trains and busses
  1. Easy Targets:
  • Businesses with no access control or CCTV capability
  • Homes with non-existent or insufficient perimeter protection
  • People walking alone or in small groups (Especially children and women)
  • School children

Barriers that would ordinarily stop any law-abiding citizen have rapidly become a breeze for criminals to penetrate. Their goal is to gain maximum yield with the minimum amount of danger to themselves.

It is for this reason that most crimes are carried out with one or more of the following:

  • Superior numbers
  • Superior firepower
  • Willingness to commit whatever violence necessary to achieve their goal.
  • The use of fear, surprise and confusion

The use of unprecedented violence has become so bad in this country, that the Southern African Region has the highest Homicide and Assault (with grievous bodily harm) rate in the world. The use of violence in South Africa takes the following shape According to David Bruce from the centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation:

  1. Instrumental Violence:
  • The perpetrator uses violence for a practical purpose, such as:
  • Self defence
  • Coercion (To force someone into co-operation)
  • Making an example to scare others into co-operation
  1. Expressive Violence:
  • This violence is a means towards emotional satisfaction, including:
  • Expression of anger or hatred
  • Satisfying the need for respect or control
  • Perpetrator gets satisfaction in hurting others
  1. Gratuitous violence:
  • This type of violence involves torture, mutilation or just plain “overkill”
  • It is heartless, callous and emotionless absolute cruelty
  • Can be due to Aggressive Sadistic Personality Disorder (ASPD)
  • This person gets pleasure in the suffering of others
  • This is also the violence derived from racial hate or even gender issues
  • There seems to be no real reason for committing it other than the perpetrator wanted to at the time.

Time has shown us that crime consists of three distinct conditions, namely, ability, opportunity and intent. Often, we unwittingly provide optimal conditions for the criminal to penetrate our protective shield.

Further observation has proven that there are a number of factors that have contributed to the degree of violence in South Africa including the broad normalisation of violence (we have got so used to the violence that it seems normal to us), the availability of firearms or other weapons, peer pressure, historical hostility towards the victims, low self-esteem, psychological pathology, family dysfunctionality and exposure to violence or even just a desire for notoriety.

The sad part of this knowledge is that the violence committed is not restricted to men, but also very predominantly includes women and children (even babies). For this reason, security in schools needs serious attention.

School security is perhaps one of the most emotive issues facing parents and teachers alike and traditionally, schools have always been seen as soft targets to criminals.

There are a number of circumstances leading to this perception, including:

  • Parents not holding schools accountable for adequate visible security
  • Parent impatience and non-compliance with security protocols
  • The freedom of passage to outsiders through gates and between classrooms
  • Children are carrying more pocket money than before
  • Children are carrying sophisticated electronic devices such as ipods, ipads and iphones

Most crime in schools is opportunistic of nature and is unfortunately not only carried out by criminal insurgents, but also sadly by pupils, abusive parents and in rare occasions, by teachers. Many pupils carry penknives and other dangerous weapons to school resulting in the recent news articles regarding teachers and pupils being stabbed. The resultant factor is that there is just as much danger from within the school perimeter than from the outside!

Violence aside, schools also have a proliferance of electronic training equipment such as computers, projectors and other sought-after items that could fetch a pretty price when sold illegally. It is for this reason that consideration be given to the protection of media centres and server rooms.

There are three basic questions one needs to ask in order to improve the security of a school:

  • Which organizational assets need protection? (Human, property or physical assets)
  • What are the risks to each of these assets?
  • How much time, effort and money would the organization be willing to put aside for the upgrading or purchase of adequate protection against these threats?

Security risks can come from 3 main sources:



The best way to ensure that your school has adequate security measures and controls in place is to invest in a well-priced, objective security risk assessment by an independent Risk Management company. This means having a look at your controls already in place and determining if they are adequate and relevant.

The security risk assessment helps to identify those areas at your school that are vulnerable to break-in or attack and should therefore be protected. The assessment also assists in the determination of which security controls need to be used and the type of security system that will best suit your needs.

Not all schools in South Africa can afford complex security equipment; however, by doing a complete security risk assessment and following a logical chain of thought, anyone can have a degree of protection.

So, what are these controls? Imagine if you will that your total security system takes the form of an onion. Onions, just as security, consists of layers and this is where your security controls find their value.

Firstly, we have the Preventative Control. Preventative security controls can be divided into two layers. These layers include deterrence and access prevention. Most schools already have these in place to a lesser or greater degree as most schools have a perimeter fence or wall, burglar bars, security gates (access prevention) and many have a security guard or two (deterrence). Just a note on deterrence, the advertising board of your security or armed reaction company will not deter the would be assailant from entering your premises as they have done their homework on these companies and often know where these vehicles respond from and what the average response time is.

By adding barbed/razor wire, spikes or electrified fencing to the top of your wall or fence, you are increasing your preventative controls as they often act as both deterrents as well as prevent access to an extent.

Secondly, because we know that no wall, fence or security gate is totally impregnable, we need to have our second control in place. This control is the Detective Control. Detective controls identify that something is amiss and alarm us of this abnormality. Detective controls can take many forms, but to give a few common examples we look at CCTV cameras either linked to a digital video recorder or linked to a monitor, movement sensors connected to an alarm, lights connected to movement sensors, etc.

The third control is called the Corrective Control. Corrective controls are those controls designed to lessen the damage when the preventative controls have been breached and the detective controls have reported that breach. Corrective controls include examples such as armed response, fire equipment, evacuation plans etc.

The best advice that I can offer is to get an objective assessment from a professional who is trained in assessing vulnerability and then take this assessment to a reputable installer or security company for a quotation.

If you wish to get an objective security risk assessment for your home, school or business, please feel free to contact Andy Lawler at Sentinel Risk Management by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +27 (0)82 953 1594.

(Sentinel Risk Management is not affiliated to any of the various security equipment installers or security response companies, therefore you are ensured of an objective and cost-effective report.)

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