Sunday, 19 July 2009

Households under siege by armed robbers

July 18 2009 at 02:13PM

New research has shown that during the past year, house robberies increased by 13.5 percent and a staggering 97 percent of all robbers are armed.

This is the latest in crime intelligence research done by Dr Rudolph Zinn, senior lecturer in the School of Criminal Justice at Unisa, in an intensive study on house robberies and robbers.

Zinn, a professor in the department of forensic and crime investigation, said almost 15 000 residential robberies were committed in 2008.

The report found the average age of a house robber to be 19 to 26 and an average of 30 percent of all house robbers had either committed murder, or wouldn't hesitate to do so. Only 17 percent of house robbers were foreigners.

Of all arrested robbers, 90 percent had no matric or were unemployed. The 10 percent who had been employed, gave up their jobs after assessing how much they could "earn" from a robbery.

Most targets were affluent people who openly displayed their wealth. Only 35 percent of robbers stole for basic needs, while 65 percent enjoyed the money, spending it on items such as clothes or cars.

The average robber committed 103 robberies over seven years before being caught and 97 percent of all robbers were armed. On average there were four members in a gang.

Intelligence is often gathered about the target home and its residents from information supplied by insiders.

Zinn said this revelation had emerged in interviews with convicted and imprisoned house robbers in the six largest correctional facilities in Gauteng.

"It was during these interviews that they revealed that 77 percent of the time, they worked on 'inside' information," he said.

The full study has not yet been released to the public and is due for release as an Institute of Security Studies publication later in 2009.

Zinn was, however, willing to answer questions about statistics leaked prematurely.

According to Zinn, informants were not only domestic workers, but employees, gardeners, visitors and any person who had access to the house.

The informers usually told robbers about the whereabouts of large amounts of cash, and security arrangements. The convicts said informants made the job less risky for the robbers.

According to his research, half of all house robberies in South Africa were in Gauteng. KwaZulu-Natal was second with 27.3 percent.

Zinn's report supports previous findings that most attacks occur between 7pm and midnight, while people are relaxed - cooking or watching TV - and their security systems are not activated.

But, Zinn says, the second-highest number of robberies is between 4am and 7am, when residents are up and about, and the alarms have been deactivated. "They use noises such as the television set, or preparation of food, as a cover to get into the house unnoticed," he told Weekend Argus this week.

Smaller dogs kept inside the house were the best deterrent, alerting the residents to intruders. In fact, they were an even better deterrent than armed response. At the lowest end of the deterrent scale were security lights.

Security systems outside the house were a better deterrent since they gave residents enough time to initiate self-defence action or call for help.

Zinn conducted the research two years ago after he found that the police had very little crime intelligence on house robberies and the robbers.

For a number of years Zinn has researched intelligence-led policing as an alternative to the mostly reactive and incident-driven policing model in SA.

The conviction rate for house robberies here is only 7.67 percent. In the US it is 53 percent.

This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Argus on July 18, 2009


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