An active neighbourhood watch or community policing forum is a major consideration for house robbers, weighing up as much as 68% in the decision to break into a property.
This is according to Professor Rudolph Zinn, senior lecturer in Forensic and Crime investigation at the University of South Africa, who conducted research into understanding and preventing house robbery in South Africa.
“They (criminals) scout a neighbourhood to see how tight the security is,” says Zinn. “A patrol or neighbourhood watch factors in 68% on whether they go in or not, so having a good neighbourhood watch in the area can be a major deterrent.”
His research is based on in-depth interviews with convicted robbers.
- 8 out of 10 residential robberies are committed with the help of information from domestic staff and former employees.
Robbers will monitor the home for as long as two weeks.
- Most attacks occur between 19:00 and midnight as people are relaxed, sleeping, cooking or watching TV and the security systems and beams are not activated. Robberies can continue until 04:00.
- 97% of robbers are armed.
- On average, an armed robbery gang has four members.
- The average age of a house robber is 19 to 26 years of age.
- An average of 30% of all house robbers have either committed murder, or won’t hesitate to commit murder.
- Only 17% of house robbers are foreigners.
- Of all arrested robbers, 90% had no matric qualification or were unemployed. The 10% who had been employed gave up their jobs when confirming how much they could ‘earn’ from a robbery.
- Most victims or targets are affluent persons who openly display their wealth, for example wearing expensive jewellery.
- The average robber commits 103 robberies over 7 years before getting caught.
- Most attackers’ homes or ‘bases’ are a 10 to 30 minute drive from the target address.
The conviction rate for house robberies in South Africa is only 7.67%. In the USA it is 53%.
- Robbers are not deterred by alarms and armed reaction services.
- Electric fences
- Detection beams
- Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
Small dogs that sleep inside the house (robbers consider this to be the biggest deterrent of all.)
- In the words of Dr Rudolph Zinn from his book Home Invasion – “They scout a neighbourhood to see how tight the security is. A patrol or neighbourhood watch factors in 68% on whether they go in or not, so having a good neighbourhood watch in the area can be a major deterrent.”
- Make sure all shrubs and trees are trimmed back so that they do not allow a burglar to conceal himself while attempting to open a window or door. If possible, plant bushes with prickly thorns around these locations.
- Don’t stop your security awareness at the outside walls of your house. Your yard areas (if any) also deserve attention. In general, don’t leave anything around the yard that might help a burglar get into your house. Ladders, stackable boxes or any garden tools should be put away, preferably in a locked cabinet. Many burglars have used the property owner’s own tools to break into a home.
- Don’t place outdoor furniture tables nearby the house, as these could become an easy stepladder to the roof. Rather move them inside in the evening.
Second-storey windows are often left unsecured, making it easy for the criminal to get into the house. To discourage potential climbers, spread grease on any metal drainpipes if they are close to windows. Use Vaseline or clear automotive grease, depending on the colour of the pipe (or replace with plastic pipe).
- A barking dog, changing your daily routine and the presence of CCTV cameras could make your home a less attractive target to criminals.
- Make sure your post office box is always empty. A full post box makes it seem like you are never home.
- Since robbers can watch your movements for as long as two weeks, try to deviate from your usual routine regularly. Leave and return home at different times, use different routes and visit different shops to what you typically do.
- Take extreme care when hiring domestic workers and other service providers cannot be underestimated. Be careful with whom you let into your home.