The latest crime stats released last month were so bad that even Police Minister Bheki Cele conceded that criminal elements have turned the country into killing fields. The grim reality is that 57 people are murdered each day, some in their homes, yet we are not in a war. Homeowners have for years been forced to spend an arm and a leg on security.
I live in what most would consider a secure estate in the north, with security guards, an automated garage for each unit and an electric fence around the high wall.
Yet crime managed to breach this seeming ring of steel and came knocking on my door in the early hours of Tuesday. I woke up to find the front left window of my car smashed. It is not clear whether the burglary was an attempt to steal the car altogether or to scavenge for valuables. I am just relieved that it all started and ended in my garage. It could have been worse.
If these rogues can bypass guards and gain access into an automated garage, getting into my home is equally a breeze. There is nothing that can prepare you for this kind of invasion in your private space.
It is a terrifying experience that I do not wish even on my worst enemy. A family at the mercy of people who kill without batting an eyelid is an unimaginable ordeal.
Truth is that Cele is fighting a losing battle against a crime cancer that has spread to incurable levels.
The other undeniable truth is that we are living among criminals. Contrary to the often pushed stereotype, it is not always the Alex or Soweto guy who will break in. It’s sometimes the friendly neighbour with the latest wheels that nobody suspects.
The level of crime in complexes became even more pronounced when I decided to share my ordeal on social media. Harrowing stories of car robberies, thefts and attacks in the so-called secure complexes flooded my inbox. They further cement my point that criminals have taken residence in residential estates to closely monitor their prey before striking.
Colleague Botho Molosankwe says she lost two cars from her complex within a space of three years.
A friend in Midrand had his house cleaned out in broad daylight while he was at work.
All I can say is take an active interest in knowing your neighbours well.
Trust must be earned.
Phathisani Moyo is news editor at The Star.