Safety and Security in Jakarta



In order to feel safe and secure while living in Jakarta you need to feel comfortable in your home and neighborhood and be confident in going about your daily activities and in your interaction with the local community. It is important to establish your own sense of well-being which enables you to deal in the best possible way with those elements that are beyond your control. While foreigners are not necessarily the targets of crime, there are occasions when they inevitably get hit as well as other Indonesians. However if you follow basic safety precautions, you will find your stay in Jakarta a very safe one.
The following are some tips on general and personal safety:

  • Being able to speak and understand the Indonesian language enables you to deal with most security related problems that may arise. We encourage you to learn Bahasa Indonesia, as the ability to communicate with those around you will do much to improve, not only your feeling of safety, but the quality of your stay in Indonesia.
  • Exercising common sense in your demeanor in public places will go far to ensure your personal safety. In our home countries we expect visitors to our shores to comply with what we consider acceptable standards of behavior and not to be rude or arrogant. Here it is no different. A smile and a friendly gesture go a long way to bridging the cultural gap here in Indonesia as these actions do in most other countries.
  • Avoid attracting attention and becoming a target of street theft by wearing lots of expensive jewelry and watches in public, or displaying large amounts of cash when making purchases, especially in the more traditional shopping areas.
  • If you are walking in the streets wear your purse with the strap across your body not hanging from one shoulder, or even better, wear a waist pouch to carry your money.
  • All family members should carry a hand phone at all times. Ensure that emergency numbers are programmed into your hand phone and that you have a list of important phone numbers kept in a safe place.
  • Just as in most major cities anywhere in the world, there are areas of Jakarta that may not be safe after dark. Ask Indonesian friends and colleagues where these areas are, so that you will not inadvertently pass through them.
  • When eating out, don’t hang your purse across the back of a chair or set it down by the table. Even in some of the best restaurants and hotels purses have been known to disappear in the midst of a meal.
  • When shopping, don’t leave your purse in the supermarket trolley but keep it on your person. In shops and department stores, keep your purse close to you and don’t set down your shopping bags and turn away to look at other items. In a flash, someone could easily pick up your bags and walk away with them.

Your home

Your home provides a physical barrier for your protection. Most upper class homes in Jakarta and those usually rented by expatriates typically have high fences and gates facing the street, 20-30 foot walls around the remaining 3 sides, often topped by broken glass, barbed wire or spikes, and 24-hour guards or watchmen. However the need for these security precautions may be perceived, not actual and these homes are not necessarily more secure that those neighborhoods where the residents do not feel the need for such physical protection.

High fences surrounding your property do discourage theft and do protect your privacy, but keep in mind that they also make it difficult for neighbors to see if someone is breaking into your home. Many homes have metal grilles on the windows to discourage unwanted entrance, however a disadvantage is that they also make exit in the case of fire impossible.

One of the most effective means of protection is to always maintain harmonious relationships with your domestic staff and neighbors. Make a donation for the community’s Lebaran and Independence Day activities as requested by your RT (neighborhood head), and when appropriate join in the various activities that are organized by your local community. By becoming a member of your community and demonstrating an open, friendly attitude to your Indonesian neighbors, you can be assured that your safety will become a community concern. It has been observed that those expatriates who have had poor relationships with their domestic staff are more likely to become victims of theft. One of the many advantages of developing good relationships with your neighbors is that they are likely to alert you as to when you may be starting to have problems with your domestic staff.

It is recommended that you take photocopies of the identity cards (KTP) of your domestic staff and also have photographs of them on file. Be sure to obtain the details of their next of kin and home address. When employing staff you should have their references and bonafides verified. It is also a good idea to visit them at their house to verify their place of domicile. It is also crucial that you store the KTP copies and other details in your home safe or better yet, at the office. These measures serve to lower the temptation for any staff facing a monetary difficulty to steal from you.

When choosing your home in Jakarta various security aspects should be considered. Many expatriates choose to live in an apartment due to the extra security provided and in order to avoid the hassles of people coming to the house for one reason and another. In our home countries we tend to choose to live in areas where the residents have a lifestyle similar to our own and for this reason many newcomers tend to select houses in areas where other expatriates live. Try to avoid a house sharing a common fence with a kampung (urban village) or a vacant block. Make sure that there are alternate routes to and from the residence and look for a house which does not draw attention to itself or its occupants.

There are things that you can do to make your present house more secure:

  • The outer perimeter fencing and entry gates of your home must always be your first consideration. Fences should have anti-climb features such as broken bottles/glass, barbed wire, etc. affixed to the top and there should be no easy points of access from adjoining buildings into your property.
  • Gates should have the same or similar features to the fencing and should be kept locked except when you or your guests are entering or leaving.
  • Make sure that your ground floor windows can be secured either by lockable shutters or internally fitted deadlocks.
  • Entry doors to the house should be solid core, with three internal hinges and viewing cylinders installed. Have security chains installed just as we do at home.
  • Consider getting a dog. Apart from its value as a pet, dogs are an excellent deterrent to would be intruders.
  • Consider your outdoor lighting. From a security standpoint, spotlights fitted to the house and shining toward the perimeter of the property are always the best choice. Would be intruders are less likely to walk into the light. To further enhance the effectiveness of this style of lighting have them activated by motion detector. This has the added benefit of making any intruder think that he has been caught making him more likely to flee than continue with his plans.
  • For you peace of mind, have a security consultant do a security audit on your home. They will do a thorough audit of your premises and provide you with a written report on the residence along with a set of security improvement recommendations if required.


Most expatriates have a watchman or jaga to guard their home. They are often referred to as day jaga or night jaga, each working a 12-hour shift. Some people choose to have only a night watchman, while others may choose to have a jaga during the day as well. The jaga’s duty is to ensure the safety of the house, the residents and household contents. He also opens the gate for your car when you leave and arrive home, and deals with people coming to your gate. Various people may come to your gate, trying to sell you something or requesting a donation, legit ima te or otherwise. Your jaga should screen these people and, in accordance with your policy, either turn them away or inform you of their presence. Your jaga should never allow anyone to enter your gate without your specific permission. It is much easier to turn an undesirable person away if they have not yet entered your yard. The day jaga often doubles as a gardener and does routine pool maintenance.

The night jaga does not necessarily stay awake all night to watch over the house, but is expected to wake up in case of trouble. He should at least be sleeping in a strategic position on the front patio or in the garage. In order to help the jaga stay awake, it’s a good idea to put a small television set or a radio in the garage or other appropriate location.

The monthly fee that you pay to your RT (neighborhood head) for garbage collection and security covers the salaries of your local hansip. This term comes from pertahanan sipil, which means civilian security. The men who make up the hansip team have very min ima l training and their primary function is to patrol the neighborhood regularly to check for problems. If a burglary or serious incident should occur, the hansip can contact the police for you.

If you are having a large party and anticipate some traffic congestion due to your guests’ cars, you should report to your RT and he will arrange for some hansip to assist in traffic control as well as to watch your guests’ cars during the evening. You will need to pay a fee for their services and it is customary to provide them with coffee and some snacks.

Some homes of expatriates and wealthy Indonesians are guarded day and night by teams of satpam who are trained in guard duties and are distinguishable by the fact that they wear official looking uniforms. The term satpam is an abbreviation of Satuan Petugas Keamanan, which means Security Officers’ Unit. Satpam are considered to be more professional than jaga and hansip as they have participated in a training program and are licensed by the local government. The duty of a satpam is to ensure the safety of your family especially in any dangerous situation and to open the gate and screen visitors to your home. They are not expected to assist with domestic duties or pool work. Satpam are hired through an agency or security consultant company. If you have a satpam there is no need for you to employ a jaga.

Instructions to staff

It is important that your household staff understand your policies regarding security therefore you need to give them very clear instructions. Tell your jaga or satpam and household staff that under no circumstances is anyone to be let into the house or even the yard without your presence and permission, even if they are expatriates. Well-intended staff will sometimes allow
strangers into homes for the fear of causing insult. There are many documented cases where foreigners have stolen goods from houses in recent years. If you have not given instructions for specific individuals to be allowed into your home during your absence, then they are not to be admitted. Your staff should be made aware that they are responsible for the house and its contents in your absence and should be wary of strangers and exercise caution and common sense in all situations. Give strict instructions to your household staff that they should never, ever give anything that belongs to you to someone without your specific prior instructions

Some basic instructions for your staff should include keeping the gate locked at all times, never leaving the house unoccupied, turning on outside lights at dusk. Specific instructions need to be given regarding how to deal with strangers coming to the gate, and how to answer phone calls. Stress to your staff that they should never give out any personal information about yourself or your family.

Staff should also be instructed how to deal with emergencies such as fire, floods, electrical blackouts, plumbing problems, or roof leaks as well as medical emergencies involving any member of the family.

Home security during vacation

During the summer holidays when many expatriates vacate their homes for long periods, special attention should be given to the security of your home.

It is at this time of year and at Lebaran (the holiday period at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan), that you may become more vulnerable to incidents of theft. However, there are a number of measures that you can take to significantly reduce your risk exposure:

  • Continually remind domestic staff not to admit unauthorized visitors.
  • Also remind your staff to be cautious about giving sensitive information, especially in relation to your whereabouts, to those telephoning your home. It is one of the best methods for organized thieves to identify windows of opportunity to steal. Staff need only reply to a curious caller “I am sorry, he/she is not here at the moment, please leave me your name and number so that he/she can return your call.”
  • Remind your staff to as much as possible, to carry out their usual household routines. This would indicate to the casual observer that you are still at home. For example leaving the lights on at night, mowing the lawns, cleaning the windows, etc.
  • Ask colleagues from the office or friends to telephone or visit your house unannounced. This serves to both test the effectiveness of the instructions you left with your staff, along with lowering the temptation for your staff to steal or have their own vacation during your absence. You might consider occasionally calling home for any phone messages to reinforce the message.

Having done all this, you should enjoy your home leave with peace of mind.