SA’s sky-high rates of home robberies: Preventing crime by understanding perpetrators

by | Apr 4

6 min read

‘A man’s home is his castle’ is a simplified extract by Judge and Jurist Sir Edward Coke in a ruling known as Semayne’s Case. Your home is your sanctuary. A safe place where you have control. After long days exposed to the rigours of the outside world, it is a place where you can retreat to the comforts of your design. A cove that protects you and your family. The simplification was derived from the quote:

the house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose’ 

This quote implies that the home owner has an absolute right to defend him/herself against intruders and murderers. This was however, 1604 in England and not 2022 in South Africa.

The landscape for defending ‘against injury and violence’ in his/her ‘castle and fortress’ has advanced far beyond a musket and a moat. Using technology to deter perpetrators and assist victims is of paramount importance. However, the ever-evolving and efficient modus operandis of intruders would appear to continuously place the victim on the back foot. However, by using a technologically layered approach to protect your home, the scales of safety and security could tilt in your favour.

House robberies are a permanent and shocking crime that plague South Africans, with SAPS recording 21 766 cases in 2021. AURA saw a 53% increase in house robberies In 2021, with 2022 displaying the same trend. A ‘house robbery’ should not be confused with a ‘house burglary’, with the former occurring when the occupants of the house are present, while the latter occurs when occupants are not at home (Bezuidenhout & Klopper 2011). With this in mind, a ‘house robbery’ has the potential to be tragic and poses a much greater threat to the wellbeing of you and your family as it involves the perpetrators “overpowering and detaining” the occupants (Bezuidenhout & Klopper 2011).

To understand how best to prevent a house robbery, one needs to understand the modus operandi of the perpetrators. Zinn (2008) interviewed 30 sentenced perpetrators to accurately breakdown events that took place during the planning and commissioning of a house robbery.

A large number of perpetrators (83%) stated that detailed planning was carried out, sometimes lasting up to four months (Zinn 2008) prior to the robbery taking place. During the planning phase, commonalities appeared amongst the operations (Zinn 2008): 

  • 80% of the perpetrators received information from an informant;
  • Of the 80%, 77% stated that the information received was from an employee or previous employee of the victim – knowing the whereabouts of as well as the sum of the cash was a deciding factor in targeting a specific house;
  • 19% of the perpetrators targeted homes that were viewed as luxurious, which opinion was based on the type(s) of vehicle(s) entering and exiting the home, as well as homes that appeared expensive in their architectural designs. 
  • 10% of perpetrators colluded with private security guards to gain access without issue;
  • 60% of house robberies were carried out in groups of three or four, where the majority of the robbers were male;
  • 97% indicated that they had spent some time in close proximity to the home in order to scout the property; 
  • 16% of the crimes were deemed farmhouse robberies where the perpetrators spent anywhere between two days to two weeks surveilling the property;
  • The majority of house robberies occured between 19:00 and 24:00 (57%) which was a strategic plan by the perpetrators to track the victims around the home based on lighted rooms. The perpetrator would observe the victim from a dark corner in the garden or from the street;
  • 20% marked the house by placing an object near the house or by tying a ribbon to the fence. The objective of the marker was purely for finding the house again and had no underlying coded message;
  • 83% indicated no preferences when it came to sex of the victim.

The preparation of the crime is a common theme amongst house robberies. It is during this stage when the perpetrators determine the ease of committing a crime. Placing deterrent layers around your property is the highest form of proactive protection.

The modus operandi during the execution stage of the house robbery shows more variability amongst perpetrators (Zinn 2008):

  • 63% of perpetrators gained access by breaking a door or window in a discrete area of the house. Once entry had been gained, the next step was to create an easy escape route;
  • 20% of perpetrators attempted to sedate the victims, especially if the victims were already asleep. The sedation substance would ordinarily be purchased from traditional healers and has no scientific proof of efficacy; 
  • Aggression and verbal intimidation was a method used to gain control over the victims in 93% of the cases;
  • 67% of perpetrators threatened the victims aiming a firearm at them while 16% used a weapon other than a firearm;
  • Only 24% of the cases involved the victims not being physically harmed;
  • The majority of the perpetrators (67%) spent roughly 30 minutes in the home however, in extreme cases, the perpetrator spent several hours in the home

The point is clear, you never wish to be a victim of a house robbery – an incident in which you submit all of your power to individuals with sinister intent. Unfortunately in South Africa the onus is on you to proactively protect yourself and your family. 

Creating technology layers in your home security proves to be the best deterrent when it comes to preventing this type of crime. Obstacles that prevent a criminal’s ease of access should be maintained on a regular basis. Electric, fortified fences, motion sensor lights, burglar bars and CCTV can all bolster up your fort and give you warning signs.

An on-demand security service will prove pivotal at any stage of a house robbery. Whether you see suspicious activity on the street, hear a window shatter or see a shadow lurking behind your curtain; at a click of a button, the nearest private security officer will be dispatched to your location and provide a full site search. This tool can be used as your first and last line of defence. 

Be proactive with your protection and take a multifaceted approach around your house to avoid this horror.