Saturday, 15 March 2008

'Don't plead with armed robbers'

14/03/2008 22:37 - (SA)

Christel Raubenheimer, Beeld

Johannesburg - "The more you beg them, the less it helps. But you have to try to save your own life."

This was the opinion of professor Anna van der Hoven, a criminologist from Unisa in commenting on a Centurion case in which a man and a woman were repeatedly burnt with a clothes iron by armed robbers.

According to Van der Hoven, victims said they often saw hatred and cruelty in the eyes of their attackers.

"I don't know if that refers to the past and why they don't just take what they want and leave."

Racist elements

"There are underlying racist elements. They were perhaps deprived and want to take revenge."

"The attackers are sometimes not South African, but people from other African countries, where there is also unrest."

Van der Hoven said it gave attackers a sense of power to hurt people.

"They feel they can intimidate people. They are in control and can decide if they want to torture you and how long you have to live."

She added that rehabilitation programmes in prisons were not complete and criminals often came out of jail more dangerous than before. On top of this, they could decide if they wanted to take part in the programmes or not.

Dr Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said SA's history of violence could contribute to the problem and that violence was seen as a means to a goal.

He also said that violence could be used as an instrument to get information from victims.

They could use force to obtain information about safes or to get a PIN number from victims.

According to Burger, there was a divide between rich and poor and that some people living in abject poverty could feel they had to commit crime.

The attackers could feel frustrated with their circumstances and then take out this frustration on their victims.

Sometimes victims fought back or even made insulting comments and this could lead to violence.

"Often the attacker's behaviour is as a result of the victim's, but that is not always the case."

Burger said there was a lack of research on this particular topic and one could only speculate about it.


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