Don't shoot, says law

2017-12-18 10:10

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It’s the middle of the night and you’re half asleep until the sound of broken glass leaves you wide awake and wondering who is in your house and how you can stop them.

Do you take the firearm from the safe and fire a few warning shots? Do you try to shoot the intruders? Do you try to hide and call the police while the intruders steal your belongings?

With the recent spike in house breakings and robberies during the festive season, many angry and frustrated locals have asked what their rights are as home owners when it comes to burglaries and robberies.

According to law, a resident may not shoot an intruder unless the criminal poses an immediate threat to the home owner or his or her family. Therefore, if someone is robbing your house or is in your yard, you may not shoot them or harm them unless they are a threat to you.

Mountain Rise police spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim said if there is a robbery in progress, the home owner may fire a warning shot to try to scare off the criminal.

She said if the intruders ignore the shot and continue to rob the home, the resident could shoot at the intruders but not with the intention to kill the robbers.

She said if an intruder did run away with your belongings after the warning shot was fired, the resident had to let them go and call police immediately and give them a description of the criminal.

Marshall Security spokesperson Kyle van Reenen said the old laws said that you could shoot an intruder to protect your property however, the new act stated you are only able to shoot if you are in immediate danger.

Pietermaritzburg Red Alert operations manager Avinash Sukai said it was recommended that residents had a passage gate between the bedrooms and the rest of the house.

Sukai said that there should be a safe room that has a panic button and a working cellphone and that residents should opt for that instead of confronting the home invaders.

“Even if you have a firearm, or 10 firearms, it is better to lock yourself in the room and wait for police or armed response, instead of putting your life at risk.”

Meanwhile, with the increase in crime over the recent months, WhatsApp community groups have taken to photographing “suspicious looking people” and posting them on social media.

South African Institute of Security Studies’ Gareth Newham said that when it came to community patrolling, one could not assume someone was a suspect based on the colour of their skin.

He said research showed that people of colour were being harassed because of their skin colour. “It has no impact on crime, because police are searching for someone who ‘looks suspicious’ instead of looking for real criminals.

“Walking down the street and being black is not suspicious. This is other people showing their own prejuidice.

“If a person is holding bolt cutters and walking slowly up and down a road and looking at houses, then that is suspicious,” said Newham.

Captain Ebrahim said sharing a photo of a person’s face who is suspected to be a criminal on social media is illegal and is seen as a cyber attack.

Sukai said the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” came into play regarding suspicious people and that people could not assume that someone was guilty of a crime just because they were walking in a particular area­.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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