By Kate Douglas, Peta Daniel and Emma Richard
Imagine you wake up in the morning to find that not only are you hanging from the night before, but for some reason you no longer have your cellphone, laptop or wallet. Even your duvet is gone. You have just been burgled – the bastards!
If you are one of the few who has yet to have their digs burgled, then consider yourself next in line as digs break-ins are as much a part of Grahamstown as McDonalds is not.
Debbie Monckton, Melissa Enslin and Natalie Burford are third year students living in a digs on Hillsview Street. If you had to walk around their digs you would be sure to stumble upon a few “fuck off, or I’ll pee on you” signs which have been attentively made and pasted on windows. These three young ladies have made it clear that they will not stand to have their clothes stolen from the washing-line again. Like many students in digs, Burford, Enslin and Monckton were shocked to find that while they were still asleep their DVD player, cell phone, CD player and a large collection of clothing amongst other things were stolen.
On the opposite end of Grahamstown another digs occupied by six male students has been broken into a record number of times. Mark Houghton and Ivan Hodgson have lost count of the number of times they were broken into last year, and this year has proven to be just as eventful.
So how can you make your digs less likely to be a target? In order to scare burglars away, Houghton and Hodgson have a fake camera displayed at their front door. However, it is the girls of the Hillsview digs that seem to have the most inventive burglar deterrents. After having all their clothes stolen off their line and hidden in the garden, they realised that their burglars were probably planning on returning. Finding a pair of shoes that was left behind, the girls decided to take action.
“We had this weird wire doll type thing hanging by our braai place when we first moved into digs,” says Melissa. “None of us touched it before, but then we realised that one of the robbers left a pair of shoes behind. We burnt the shoes, poured rotten stuff from our fridge on it, put the wire voodoo doll thing in the shoes and put it where they hid our clothes, with strategically placed sticks around it. We hope that if they return they will think that we can do black magic or something.”
Melissa and Debbie have also made it clear that they will defend themselves. They have emergency buttons, pepper spray and a long, steel sword. “There have been nights when we have walked from room to room, making sure that they are empty, with our sword posed and ready,” smiles Debbie.
And why shouldn’t they be cautious? According to police reports, a girl just a few houses down from them was beaten while having her digs broken into. Earlier this year Hi-tech, responding to the security panic button being pressed, arrived at the digs to find a man, with a knife, standing over a female student. Fortunately Hi-tech managed to detain the man and the girl was unharmed.
The history of digs theft in Grahamstown shows that thieves often choose to steal the strangest things. Students try to understand why coins in a jar were stolen along with a cigarette soaked in apple juice, while the R200 note on the counter was left behind.
Digs break-ins are upsetting, no matter what is stolen. So we toast to those who have bravely stood the queues at the police stations to make lengthy reports, fought with landlords over getting the electric gate fixed and have randomly chased after people they could have sworn were wearing their socks.