ABU DHABI // When ZA's pet birds started squawking in the middle of the night last week, she and her husband did not think anything of it.
It was not until the next morning that the Al Reef Villas resident noticed deep scratch marks on the outside of her back patio door and realised someone had tried to break in.
On ZA's street alone, several residents have reported attempted break-ins in the past several weeks. In the Mediterranean Village, where the Canadian lives with her husband and three children, the houses back on to an expanse of sand near Abu Dhabi International Airport.
"It's easy access," she said. "It is not being monitored, and there are no lights in the back. Our backyard is totally dark."
Residents at Al Reef, one of the capital's largest gated communities, estimate that they have been the victims of more than a dozen attempted break-ins in the last month alone. ZA has since barricaded her sliding door with a stick to keep it from being slid open from the outside.
Other residents have not been so lucky. One reported that a gold watch and US$1,000 (Dh3,673) was taken.
Last Thursday, JL, a resident in Arabian Village, woke up early. The mother of one had just poured herself a glass of water when she was startled by a noise downstairs. The burglar had made it into her house but was scared off when she turned on the light. Nothing was taken.
"I definitely don't feel comfortable," she said. "I've been leaving the garden lights on all night now, and I put a stick in the door."
The thieves always try to come in through the sliding patio back door. Police suspect a screwdriver was being used to prise open the door.
The incidents began in Mediterranean Village but have spread to Arabian Village.
Sometimes a thief will strike in the middle of the night; others say they have been targeted in the middle of the afternoon.
"What's really a mystery to me is why my house was targeted," said JL, a Briton. "Most of the previous homes were backing on to the airport, but I'm surrounded by houses, at least two on each side, and they are all occupied."
Manazel Real Estate, the community's developer, has increased patrols in "weak areas" and is working with the police and CID officers to provide additional security.
Saeed Al Jabri, the general manager of Manazel Specialists, said security cameras would be installed within 10 days, but only in public areas.
"We don't want to violate people's privacy," Mr Al Jabri said.
"This is a major priority for us, but we want to keep people safe and ensure they still have their privacy."
Mr Al Jabri also said the company was considering installing electronic checkpoints that would allow guards to use a key card to check in at specific sites, to ensure patrols were hitting the must-see areas.
Another resident, NR, said she planned to install a motion sensor in her backyard after she found scratch marks on her door about three weeks ago.
"I'm not sure how cameras would work, because the burglars are trying to get entry from the backside," the German woman said. "But maybe it would be enough to give them a fright and keep them away."
JL said that open alleyways and other points of entry should be blocked. ZA said more night-time patrols would make her feel safer.
Mr Al Jabri said fences would be installed, and Manazel has asked the airport to improve its security along the periphery. The community's 32 guards have also been given golf carts for patrolling.
Guards have told residents to put broomsticks in the runners or locks on their patio doors and to report attempted break-ins to the police. Residents are also encouraged to approach Manazel with their suggestions.
Mr Al Jabri said the police are investigating the attempted break-ins, but so far, no suspects have been caught.