“Unfortunately, the fluid and unregulated nature of the industry means that your house help could well be a threat to your safety. We’ve noted several instances where domestic helps facilitated home break-ins by criminal gangs.” John Ogutu, Securex Senior Operations Manager.
The subject of hired helps is one that has always drawn contrasting opinion, with many having vastly different personal experiences with their domestic helps. For every household that found a help they could trust with their lives, there’s a family that arrived home one evening only to find their house emptied of all their valuables. The question of rogue house helps and their suspected involvement in burglaries has persisted for quite some time now.
“A good number of house-help bureaus that have sprung up in almost every estate have turned out to be conduits for thugs and kidnappers; and many people have lost their property and even children through such house girls. We have heard of stories whereby house-helps ganged up with gangsters and emptied people’s houses or worse still took off with toddlers when the owner was at work,” Josephine Chesaina, Founder of Maarifa Training Consultants.
Yet, according to recent media and police reports, this is a crime trend that appears to be on the rise once again.
Local authorities both in Murang’a and Nyandarua counties have both been quoted in the press issuing alerts to residents over criminal gangs using house helps to facilitate home break-ins in the area. Locals were advised to thoroughly vet potential employees before hiring them as domestic workers, and to keep an eye on them while they work around the house.
This trend has coincided with a marked increase in the volume of criminal activity targeting residential areas across the country. As per our database, we have noted a 32% increase in crime that happened in residential areas countrywide between July and September. Of this activity, 13% comprised of theft and armed robbery in our homes.
With particular focus on Nairobi alone, 21% of the activity that we noted in this period happened in residential areas. 11% of this crime involved armed robbery, while a further 15% comprised of theft. We have also recorded a number of incidents where houses were broken into while the occupants were away, perhaps pointing towards insider information.
According to the Securex Senior Operations Manager John Ogutu, keeping your loved ones safe at home should begin with your choice of hired help.
“We would advise that you rely on a referral from a trusted friend or family member rather than hire through a bureau. Some of the agencies mushrooming today have been infiltrated by criminal gangs, and since the industry isn’t regulated, it is difficult to know who to trust,” Mr. Ogutu said.
Beyond this, it is important to vet anyone before hiring them to work around your home. Any potential employee should first be interviewed, where their background and professional track record should be questioned. Investigate their criminal background by asking for a Certificate of Good Conduct where possible, and ask them to give you references who can vouch for them.
Even after hiring a help, monitoring and supervision remain key to ensuring they harbour no ill motives.
“We would advise that an employer should invest in some form of surveillance technology such as CCTV to keep an eye on their house helps and nannies. This came in handy in Murang’a, where a house help was arrested after she was caught on CCTV footage helping two suspected thugs break into her employer’s home,” Mr. Ogutu noted.
“You should also periodically check on your possessions, particularly small valuables such as jewellery. Rogue helps can take something small and easy to conceal as they proceed on their day off for example.”
Employers should also consider restricting their help’s access to certain parts of the house, such as the master bedroom. This is especially important with instances where a home owner prefers to hire a help on weekends alone for example, or for particular tasks such as laundry. A domestic worker who has been asked to do the laundry would not need to see what electronics are in the living room.
In concluding, Mr. Ogutu advised against having a frequent turnover of domestic workers in one’s home, arguing that this only exposes one to more risk:
“The more you limit the number of people in your home, the less likely you are to be a victim of targeted crime later. This doesn’t mean that they should be pardoned for doing wrong, but perhaps we can explore alternative means of correcting their conduct other than terminating their services altogether,” Mr. Ogutu concluded.
*Article courtesy of Securex Kenya