Robbers prefer you home

2007-12-08 00:00

Not only are robbers hitting more houses, they now prefer to strike when residents are at home, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said yesterday.

“It’s fairly obvious that this is what’s happening,” said ISS researcher Johan Burger.

“There seems to be a correlation between the decrease in burglary figures and the increase … in the house robbery figure,” he said, but added that this might not be the only reason.

The police announced on Thursday that house robbery went up seven percent, business robbery 29,3%, and truck hijacking 53,3% in the six months from April to September.

In the past, burglars would watch houses to establish residents’ patterns, then break in while the people were out and they could expect no resistance, said Burger.

The availability of firearms in the crime market in the past couple of years has “completely changed the face of crime”.

Firearms enable criminals to confront people, something that was more difficult in the past.

Victims would put up a lot of resistance if attacked with knives, whereas just pointing a firearm would almost lead to their guaranteed co-operation.

Instead of burglars having to search a house for what they want, robbers can now obtain bank cards and pin numbers, and the codes for safes without a struggle.

He said the recent seven percent increase in house robberies was over and above a 25% increase last year.

Although this type of crime accounted for only 11% of aggravated robberies — business robberies made up 7,4% and car hijackings 12% — it is growing. “[It] becomes more serious every time the crime statistics are released.”

He expects the police and criminal justice system to focus on fighting house robberies.

“At the moment, it’s the one crime … that causes the most fear.”

Burger said the country’s biggest headache in the past few years was still the level of violence in crime.

“Violence is the one element in our crime that creates the most fear in people’s worlds,” he said.

While the ISS had considered studying the phenomenon, it had decided to wait for the outcome of a probe by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said on Thursday that the police had received its preliminary report, but that the final report would be presented in January 2009.

Describing the latest crime statistics as showing mixed results, he said robberies might have increased, but had done so at a slower rate than in the past.

However, a new trend was the spread of these crimes — which used to be restricted to urban areas — to rural areas.

Part of the explanation for this could be that rural criminals were learning from their urban counterparts.

It could also be that they were picking up tips from monitoring the media.

— Sapa.

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