PLAY IT SAFE: Try a few tips with plants to make your home and neighbourhood safer
Instant news: The crime rate and security issues were hotly debated in recent weeks with newspaper headlines screaming one crime after another being committed. I would not venture to guess if there is an actual increase in crime rate as it is difficult to ascertain the figures but I believe two reasons could have made the crime rate seem higher than before.
The first could be that the percentage of crime remains the same but the population growth in urban areas simply led to a rise in absolute numbers, hence the perception of increased crime rates. The advancements in how we get our news might also be one of the key reasons as news from all over the country reaches us in an instant now. Thanks to citizen reporting, many crimes that would previously go unreported are being thrown to the forefront of our consciousness.
The first reason is an unfortunate statistical effect but could definitely be improved over time. The second reason is a welcome trend as people become more aware of more things that go on in our country. Regardless of the actual crime trend, it pays to be vigilant and to protect ourselves from harm as much as possible.
What boundaries? Writing about this also reminds me of my days growing up in my kampong. I am sure many of my peers would remember the days when we did not have any borders between neighbours and one house compound flows freely into another. Perimeter markers such as scrubs were used mostly to mark the boundaries between the field and the houses.
I also remember how my grandfather would throw open the doors every morning when he wakes up and the door will remain open throughout the day and would only be closed when we go to bed at night.
In fact the only thing we were concerned about was to keep out the cats and dogs that would sometimes come into the house at night. However, even the animals learned after awhile of the boundaries and would not trespass into our properties. Life was peaceful and harmonious.
This did not change much even when many of us first moved into the cities. We had low fencing around our houses that were barely 1.5 meters high and hardly served as a security feature. What it allowed though was an easy way for us to talk to our neighbours and foster community spirit.
Many people would plant some small plants around the perimeter to beautify the compound without blocking out the line of sight, thus allowing neighbours to keep an eye on each other‘s properties when one is not at home.
“Samurai” of our properties: However, the pace of life has picked up massively over the years and many in newer neighbourhoods do not even know the names of their neighbours. The most one would get out of each other is maybe a wave or a smile when running into each other in the morning.
In a time when you do not know your neighbours and your neighbours do not know you, we have to fend for ourselves and protect our own properties.
We have become the samurai of our own properties and must fend for ourselves. I could probably comment much more on the ills of this trend, but this is sadly something that we need time to evolve for the better.
This is also why gated and guarded communities are getting more popular.
However, the gated and guarded format is not always open to everyone, particularly in some older residential districts. Take the older parts of Petaling Jaya for example, many of the roads in the residential areas are public roads and serve as access roads to other parts of town. It is very tricky and often illegal to fence up the roads to create a closed community.
What then can owners do to safeguard theirproperties?:The answers are easy enough. Take a look around the next time you are in a housing area; some people use very high fencing, others embed glass on their perimeter walls, while some use barbed wire to fence up their back lane. I can understand the extremes people do to protect their home as it is the place where we need to feel safe and be able to let our guard down a little.
But like everything else, overdoing it is never healthy and soon one will feel like he or she is living in a prison. Like nature, everything has to be balanced; we need to incorporate security features without compromising on aesthetics.
Striking a balance is actually an art and here are some ideas you might employ in your homes.
Remember that many crimes are opportunistic in nature and criminals tend to look for the easiest possible target.
We cannot deny one their luxurious homes as they have worked hard to earn it, but it would help to tone down a little of the opulence and to hide some of the more valuable stuff from prying eyes. We do not want to create the opportunities to attract them and although we cannot prevent it totally, we can surely discourage them against coming in.
Take a look from outside your house.
Does your house look like it is easy to enter? Does your house look like there are many valuable things to steal from? Do you see that gold statue from outside your house? In order to cut out these views, we need some plants to screen parts of the house. Besides, houses in this layout typically overlook other houses and planting screening plants can increase privacy.
Bamboos are a good start as they grow closely together and provide a very calming atmosphere to the garden.
Flowering plants are also great additions as they not only provide screening, but add colours when they bloom. However, do make sure that the tree in your compound does not have protruding branches that would allow intruders to climb in easily.
We can also plant thorny plants to provide additional deterrent for intruders from scaling the perimeter wall.
In addition, a feng shui master would agree that thorny plants around the perimeter can ward off negative energy, thus providing an additional bonus.
Other visible security features such as CCTV (even if it’s a dummy) can provide further deterrents to burglars.
Holistic challenge: Having said all that, I am a strong believer of holistic approach to solving problems and believe that a change in attitude is the best means of protection. Imagine this: we spend most of our time indoors and are hardly seen outside the house. This gives the idea that the house is often empty and an easy target for burglars.
Much activities outside the house will also discourage burglars from scouting the neighbourhood looking for their target.
Imagine a neighbourhood with many people often outside the house getting some outdoor living and meddling with the bonsai. This neighbourhood would be full of life and discourage burglars from even bothering to come into the area as they know that their every movement will be seen by someone. This is a lesson taught by nature as burglars are a lot like termites.
Termites only attack rooms where there is no movement and hence an occupied room seldom falls prey to these pests.
Finally, with the neighbours frequently outside their house, we can expect more mingling and interaction, and a definite improvement in community spirit. Other than your immediate family, your neighbours are the ones you spend the most time with whenever you are at home and it is crucial to form good relationships with them. Spend more time outside and bring back the community spirit of yesteryears and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much safer everyone in the neighbourhood would feel.