Security is the first thing you will think about when moving to Johannesburg. I know I did. Based on the international reputation, I was convinced we were going to get murdered and most of the blogs seemed to back this up! So hopefully, this will put things in perspective for you:
Johannesburg does have a high violent crime rate – there are places that you don’t go, you do have to be careful and be aware, but you will not be terrified every time you step out of your front door! Most expats live in safe areas with security and enjoy normal, regular lives in a great city.
Most corporates will offer some kind of specific security briefings with more practical advice about what to do if you do find yourself caught up in a bad situation.
Here are some basic guidelines, which are mainly common sense,
- Choose a house with sufficient security in an area you are comfortable with.
- Choose a car that is reliable and not too flashy as your pride/husband will let you get away with.
- These above 2 points will be key for 95% of your time in Johannesburg and if you make security conscious choices here you will be well placed to avoid the majority of problems.
- Pay extra attention when driving into your property to make sure that you’re not being followed when you get home and be especially careful when leaving the airport, wearing expensive jewellery, or withdrawing large amounts of money from a cash machine.
- Wear expensive Jewellery.
- Drive with your window down – especially at night. Most people drive with their car doors locked and handbags out of sight. If your buying a car here, you can arrange to have a window laminate installed on your windows which makes it harder to see what is inside and harder to smash to help prevent Smash & Grabs (it’s called a smash & grab laminate!).
- Drive through red lights (which is the advice everyone gave me before I got here!). This is highly dangerous. I would only consider doing this if it’s night time, you’re 100% sure there’s nothing coming and there are people hanging around your car making you feel uncomfortable.
- Don’t list your house address as home on your GPS. If your car is stolen and you have a gate remote and your GPS in your car, you will also be giving them access to your home.
- Go to high risk areas. There are some places in the CBD that have been regenerated and are safe to go to in the day but the majority of the CBD is a no-go area especially at night. Don’t go to townships like Hillbrow/ Alexandra/ Yeovill/ Soweto without a guide. GPS has an annoying habit of sending you through some scary places (especially from the airport) so if possible, check your route before you go.
- Open your front door/gate to someone that you’re not expecting and tell any staff you employ not to let people in, unless they are expected. Even when tradespeople are expected, ask them for ID before you let them in.
Check that your car is locked manually after locking it with a remote. A popular scam here is to use a gate remote to block your car locking system, so when you think you’ve locked your car and walked away, they can just open the door and help themselves. Just make sure you lift your door handle to make sure its locked its so simple and what I have got used to doing every day…
Security in the home
There are different levels or types of security depending on where you choose to live and it’s a very personal choice – you have to decide what feels right for you. But at the very least you will have an electric fence surrounding the property and an alarm attached to one of Jo’burgs armed security companies, for example:
You can choose to live in a secure estate ,a secure cluster (with a guard at the entrance to the cluster and a boom to regulate who comes in or out) or a stand-alone house. Most of the advice you will get will tell you that you can’t live in a stand-alone house, but we know lots of expats who do. It’s a very personal choice and you have to be comfortable with your choice. Secure complexes and clusters aren’t immune to break-ins either. Many people choose to have dogs as pets as additional security. Ask your relocation/estate agent to show you all options, so you can make an informed decision.