Fantasy of safety keeps them coming

Asecurity guard protecting a ­neighbourhood with a semi-automatic rifle. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)

Asecurity guard protecting a ­neighbourhood with a semi-automatic rifle. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)

And cash flows as the fear buzzes.

This is what happens when fear turns into money at industrial speed: at the recently held International Fire and Security Exhibition and Conference there were showgirls in teal body-hugging dresses and black heels and other women in dark dresses with giant silver fingerprints across their abdomens. There was even a man dressed in a giant, boxlike infrared detector costume. It looked hot in there.
He was sweating.

At this convention the paranoia was real.

“Our task is to try to get the message across. What value do you place on your family?” said Jack Edery, chief executive of Elvey Security Technologies.

The paranoia is so intense that Cheryl Ogle, administrator for an armed-response complaints agency, gets a few cases every month for slow response service, which turn out to be drunk homeowners who push their own panic buttons and then stand outside their homes with a stopwatch until the guards with guns get there. She feels this happens from a lack of respect, not paranoia.

Even these hyper-conscious professionals are affected by crime: the chief executive of a major security company was at a version of this same trade show in the United Kingdom in 2008 when two armed intruders broke into his house in Sandton.

He got an alert with essentially live video of the break-in on his cellphone – terrifying at the very least because his wife was home. No one was hurt, the intruders were caught, but now he lives in a walled-in Sandton cluster with electric fences and 24/7 armed guards.

Keith Scott, an installation official with ADI Global Distribution, was broken into five times in the same year. He lost a grand total of eight gaming systems because he kept replacing them.

Some of these security professionals did not seem that optimistic about the power of their own products. One camera sales official has hooked up his employer’s own cameras so he can get videos on his phone – and he drives around with a 9mm pistol. If things get bad, he will deal with it himself.

Wynand Beneke, a branch manager for Videofied, gestured at the exhibition floor: “If all these systems worked, wouldn’t we be the safest country in the world?”

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