Forewarned is forearmed

2010-06-03 00:00

“IN South Africa crime pays.” This is according to Rudolph Zinn in his book Home Invasion, an informative read about what goes through the minds of robbers.

Zinn, a former detective, did his PhD on prisoners who were in jail for committing robberies.

Internationally, jailed offenders are used as sources of criminal information. But in South Africa this valuable way of attaining information and subsequently preventing house break-ins remains untapped.

Zinn says that through his research, criminals told him that although house robberies are high-risk jobs they also reap high rewards.

He discovered that criminals carefully plan each break-in. They do a neighbourhood reconnaissance­, checking to see if there is access to the house in question from several points and if the house is close to a highway or main road. They also check for signs of visible security­ and if there is any community involvement in the area.

The logistics of the robbery are also carefully calculated.

Criminals will watch a house and watch the residents’ routine and the security the house has. They will then decide on an optimal time to do the job, what weapons to take and how to enter and escape. This is usually done for about two weeks.

The recruitment of accomplices and the allocation of tasks is also done ahead of time.

Zinn also discovered that 77% of the required information to complete a robbery successfully is received prior to the job. Most of the information is received from people who know the home, the residents and the domestic worker’s movements.

And if they consider the target worthwhile Zinn says that no amount of security will prevent the burglary from taking place.

Zinn says that visibly­ heavy security sometimes draws attention to the home, while a lack of security is also attractive to the criminals.

The number-one deterrent is the presence of dogs. Burglars said that barking dogs often upsets their plans. The presence of small dogs that are kept inside is an effective way of preventing­ a robbery.

Zinn discovered that robbers are not afraid to use extreme violence­ and harm their victims if the robbery is put at risk.

Zinn lists the levels, percentagewise, of violence­ that is used while robbing a home. At the top is verbally intimidation (100%), pointing a firearm at the victim (67%), assaulting the victim (63%), tying up the victim (37%) and killing the victim (30%).

He said that the South African law enforcement could do more to ensure that house robberies become less common.

Zinn also discovered that criminals often go to shebeens or taverns and, after a few drinks, brag about the robberies they have committed. He said that this is where police should use undercover work to catch criminals. Throughout the book, Zinn stresses the benefits our country would receive if a more proactive approach was taken to crime prevention, namely, working with convicted criminals.

In his book Zinn lists the do’s and don’t’s one should follow during a robbery. This information was given to him by incarcerated robbers.

He makes it clear that robberies do involve violence, and his suggestions deal not with how to avoid violence, but rather how to minimise it and avoid further violence.

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