Given the fact that serious violent crimes, including farm attacks and property-related crimes, tend to increase during the festive season, it is now more important than ever for farmers, their families, workers or residents on farms and smallholdings, to follow safety measures to improve their safety and help prevent crimes. This is according to Dr Jane Buys, safety and risk analyst at Free State Agriculture (FSA).
“The VKB Safety Desk of FSA appeals to all farmers, their families and residents on farms, regardless of whether they are members of organised agriculture, to be part of a safety network in order to proactively prioritise their own safety,” she says.
According Buys, it is best to act preventively. Take note of the following basic safety measures for agricultural communities:
In the micro environment (in and around the house):
- Make sure that safety starts at home. Protect your home with the necessary security gates, locks and burglar bars. Keep security gates locked at all times and do not leave keys lying around. Apply strict key management to track in whose possession keys are at specific times. Replace keys of safety gates if keys are lost. Do not hide keys underneath doormats or in potted plants. Remove keys from vehicles and tractors if not used. Ensure that dangerous weapons such as axes, shovels, picks, crowbars and ladders are locked away when not in use.
- Apply access control by installing remote-controlled gates where possible. Ensure that these gates are not blocked by shrubs or bushes. Install trail cameras wherever possible to detect and report any movement in the direct environment around your home.
- Unknown persons must be identified before conversing with them. Do not leave your house when dogs bark at night or if your electricity is off. Rather contact your neighbours, the farm guard or your safety network for assistance.
- Do not allow unemployed individuals to aimlessly roam the farm.
- If possible, install a security gate inside your home. A dog or dogs sleeping in your house is also recommended.
- When arriving at home, do not go into the house immediately. Inspect the area around your home to determine whether access was forced. See where your dogs are and what their behaviour are.
- Do not employ illegal immigrants. Do not get involved in illegal trade with citizens of a neighbouring country. Keep proper record of workers and residents on farms. Lead workers and make them part of contingency plans to be careful about suspicious persons and vehicles moving around in the area. Maintain good relationships with workers and residents on farms.
In the macro environment:
- Be sure to put up Agri SA’s Farm Protocol signs at the entrance to your farm.
- Be part of safety structures between the South African Police Service (SAPS), farmers and farm guards in your area. Get involved with the Rural Safety Strategy (RSS) through actions such as regular white and blue light patrols and know who the SAPS and FSA (organised agriculture) safety coordinators in your area are. Become part of a safety WhatsApp groups that pass on proactive information.
- Gain access to radio communication with a local radio network. Regularly test radio communications under the RSS in your area. Keep an additional connected in a strategic place inside the house and make sure it is always charged. Link yourself to emergency call groups, for example, the mobile phone application called Die Plaaswag. Contact details and emergency numbers of neighbours, the SAPS and safety coordinators must always be nearby or saved on mobile phones.
- Report and link any information related to a crime to the SAPS and safety coordinator in your area. The unexplainable death of a watchdog must be seen as a warning sign.
According to Buys, greater safety on agricultural land is dependent on core elements. These are:
- Improving relationships in the micro and macro environment among all stakeholders to ensure that communications networks are in place to call for assistance when there is an emergency and involvement and linking to safety structures or networks in your immediate environment; and
- The regular communication of information about crime activities and suspicious persons or vehicles to safety structures or networks and empowerment with knowledge and information on how to address certain crises within the framework of existing legislation.
“Everything comes down to farmers improving their readiness, they must observe what they see in their immediate environment and should not consider any activity or movement as too small or irrelevant,” Buys said. “Keep yourself, your family and workforce safe.” – Vrystaat landbou