Fear freezes Indian family
Fear has robbed an Auckland Indian family of enjoying their home. When there, they barricade themselves in with deadbolts, light sensors and elaborate alarms covering individual rooms.
The beefed-up security is the result of an audacious burglary - just one wall away from where the family sat watching a big rugby match.
For the Mirza family, the brazen grab was one of the most harrowing experiences they have endured. They still tread carefully around the house in fear of what might be lurking behind the curtains.
Police are now issuing strong warnings to Auckland's Asian community .
"A number of burglaries are committed at homes where there are obvious signs that the occupants are South Asians," says South East Asian liaison officer Constable Gurpreet Arora.
Mr Arora suggests Asian families consider removing items identifying their ethnicity from outside their homes, such as flags from their homelands.
"Burglars are very well aware of the fact that South Asian communities tend to keep considerable amounts of cash and jewellery at home," he says.
"Religious signs, personalised plates on vehicles, putting lights on the outside of the house at night on occasions like Diwali, are some of the signs to burglars."
Mr Arora says the criminal fraternity is well aware jewellery is kept by many Indian families in the master bedroom.
This was the room the intruder entered at the Mirza family home before rifling through their belongings and making off with thousands of dollars worth of jewellery, travellers' cheques and money.
Nasir Mirza says his wife Mairajm got up from watching the rugby game to discover the bedroom door locked in September 2009.
"When she tried to open it, she found it was jammed. Immediately she screamed 'we've been robbed'."
The Aucklander has spoken to several other Indian families that have also been targeted and they know of many others in the community.
One suffered the shattering indignity of being burgled while the family were attending her father's funeral early this year.
Mrs Mirza knew she had been robbed before seeing anything missing because a community constable had warned of a similar "modus operandi" by burglars.
"One of the boys ran around the house to see if someone was there," says her distraught husband.
"We were all running in different directions. At first we could not see anything amiss until I discovered the dressing table drawer on the lawn."
The thieves were interested only in cash and jewellery. They found what they were looking for in the right drawer and picked up a briefcase from the walk-in wardrobe and left.
"We didn't realise it then but the trauma had just started. We had never been burgled before in 10 years of living in Auckland.
"Fear crept in when we realised someone had been in the house while we were in it. The harrowing experience left an indelible mark and the 'fear of the unknown'.
"It prevented us from going into the bedroom for months. It always felt that there was someone there behind the curtains or that someone would pop out from behind the windows.
"We spent heaps installing security stays in all the windows and ranch sliders and adding three more sensor lights around the house.
"A sectional alarm is always on in the house, especially the one in the bedroom. the section of the house we are not in is alarmed all the time. we have also had the alarm activation diverted to our mobile in case it goes off when we are not at home."
Despite their own distressing ordeal, Mr Mirza is willing to go public to warn others:
"Indian homes are being targeted for gold and jewellery and Asian homes are targeted for cash," says the Dannemora resident.
When to be alarmed
* Keep jewellery in a bank, safe or in another room in the house, in a well-concealed position, preferably covered by an alarm. * Record the serial numbers of expensive items and keep photographs of them. * Install an alarm system and external sensor lights. * Trim plants and shrubs to remove opportunities for burglars to hide in. * External doors and windows should have deadbolt locks and patio bolts fitted to French doors and ranchsliders. * Keep a radio and lights on a timer switch when away. Do not say on your answering machine that you will be away from home. * Get a neighbour or friend to check the property regularly. Ensure mail and newspapers are stopped or collected. * Don't leave empty boxes outside your home which show new and valuable equipment has been purchased. * Have a household contents insurance policy.
Join your local neighbourhood support group. For more crime prevention advice, see www.ns.org.nz.