About 80% of house robberies are committed with the help of domestic workers, gardeners and former employees — and robbers are not even deterred by alarm systems.This is according to research by Unisa’s school of criminal justice, which also found that the majority of house robberies occur between 7 pm and midnight while people are relaxing at home. The average robber commits a staggering 103 robberies over a seven-year period before getting caught, it was found.The lead researcher, Dr Rudolph Zinn, conducted in-depth interviews with convicted robbers. The research found that as many as 97% of robberies were armed, and armed robbery gangs usually had four members. The average age of a house robber was found to be between 19 and 26 years old.Zinn’s research found:• An average of 30% of all house robbers have either committed murder, or won’t hesitate to do so;• Robbers stalk targets’ homes for about two weeks before acting;• As many as 90% of them were unemployed and didn’t have a matric qualifications;• Most victims were “affluent” people who would openly display their wealth, such as wearing jewellery; and• Robbers’ “bases” are usually 10-30 minute drives from their target areas.Lucas Holtzhausen, of Msunduzi’s Safe City initiative, agreed with the findings, saying it was a “well-known fact” that information about a household was “leaked” through domestic workers, gardeners and contractors.“A dirty or untidy yard certainly attracts attention as it provides ‘cover’ for the attackers,” he said.“Pot plant-holders have been used to smash through windows and thin burglar guards; if possible, they must be secured to a wall or cement base.”He advised homeowners to have healthy relationships with their immediate neighbours, and to have their numbers on-hand for emergencies.He added: “Extreme caution must be exercised when a remote-controlled driveway gate does not want to open. Before exiting your vehicle, ensure that the immediate vicinity is safe.“Switch off the vehicle and lock it when getting out. Whilst attending to the problem continue to exercise extreme caution in order not to get ambushed.”He advised people to be cautious when drawing large sums of money before driving back home. “It is best to use the money on the same day you withdrawn it from the bank.”He said CCTV cameras must be installed by professionals to ensure the system can be used to identify criminals, adding alarm companies used should be a member of the South African Intruder Detection Services Association.SAPS offer safety tipsThe SAPS advises people to vary their daily routine and to get into the habit of not falling asleep immediately after switching off all lights. People should ensure their doors are locked and windows are closed when not at home.Other advice offered by the SAPS is:•Inform family or neighbours of your intended destination when travelling, as well as the time you expect to return and the route you will be driving, especially if you reside in a rural area;•Ensure that tools such as axes, spades, picks, ladders that can be used in an attack, are locked away when you do not use them;•A person should not be visible in the bedroom from the outside when you are asleep; and•If a person is unsure about the security status of their home after returning, such as their dogs not coming to the gate, they should not enter their homes on their own.