House robbers plan crimes for weeks

2008-10-24 00:00

Pretoria — Eight out of every 10 robberies committed in South Africa are carefully planned.

Research by Dr Rudolf Zinn, a senior lecturer in forensics and crime investigation at Unisa, showed that robbers often receive information from domestic workers or people who know a family’s movements well, weeks before committing the crime.

Most house robbers get away with more than 100 serious crimes before finally being apprehended. Most robberies are planned for financial gain, he said.

Zinn, who is also the chairman of the World Convention for Modern Crime Investigation, Organised Crime and Human Rights, shared his information about crime trends with members of community policing forums in Pretoria on Thursday.

Zinn’s findings were based on interviews with 30 house robbers between the ages of 19 and 26 in various prisons.

He said most of them told him they did it for the money.

His research also showed that robbers gather thorough information about a house. They question domestic workers or vulnerable or naive family members like children about the behaviour of the family, up to two weeks in advance. Sometimes they also ask around in the neighbourhood.

Zinn found that two-thirds of prisoners committed on average 103 serious crimes over a period of six years and seven months before being caught.

About 83% of house robberies are committed by South Africans. Ninety percent of the perpetrators are black. Only 20% have matric.

“Crime increased last year by 13,5% and about 15 000 house robberies are committed each year — most of them in Gauteng,” said Zinn.

“Most of [the robbers] come from broken homes. They are often violent and usually target homes in wealthier suburbs.”

Zinn said there are several protective measures people can take to ensure their safety at home, including locking the doors and arming alarm systems. He encouraged people to join community policing forums and to be alert.

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