Robberies in South African homes soar
South Africans are under siege. House robberies have rocketed by nearly 100% in just five years. The murder rate is approximately 50 a day with another 60 attempts a day being unsuccessful – this is the murder rate the government owns up to – it may, of course, be higher than this. Welcome to the Rainbow Nation!
The shocking increase in home robberies – where the victims are present, unlike during burglaries – across the country is laid bare in a new book, Home Invasion, by police detective-turned-academic, Professor Rudolph Zinn.
Zinn’s research into the phenomenon has been used by police to implement new strategies to tackle the scourge.
Zinn, a senior lecturer at the School of Criminal Justice and Police Practice at the University of South Africa, is convinced house robbers are “the most callous of criminals”.
“The brutal assault on baby Marzaan Kruger and her minder, Francina Sekhu, is a sad example of how violent these robberies are,” he said.
Baby Marzaan, aged one, is still in critical condition after being pistol-whipped during an armed robbery at her home in Randburg, Johannesburg, on April 22.
One of her alleged attackers, Chakhoma Machaba, was a “trusted friend” of Sekhu.
Zinn’s research revealed that eight out of 10 robberies were committed by criminals who had been fed information by people known to their victims.
Official police figures show there were 18438 residential robberies reported during 2008/9 – an increase of 97.2% since 2003/4, when the total was 9351.
The book is based on research Zinn did for a PhD which he obtained from Unisa in 2008 after conducting interviews with convicted house robbers in Gauteng jails.
He found that house robbers, on average, were in their 20s yet already experienced criminals who often had committed more than 100 crimes before being arrested.
“I was struck by how well prepared and organised these criminals are. They gather information on their intended target for days and weeks before they attack,” Zinn said.
“They are prepared to watch a house or farm for a long time. In one instance they watched a particular house for four months before they struck,” he said.
They also used torture techniques during robberies, such as burning victims with boiling water, melted plastic or hot irons and used rape, or the threat of rape, as a means of establishing where valuables were hidden.
And in many cases the robbers were not deterred by alarms, armed response or dogs.
The book also shatters myths about house robberies, for instance that criminals “mark” their targets by placing an object on the pavement or tying a ribbon to a fence.
“Cellphones have made these obsolete. Criminals take pictures and SMS directions,” said Zinn.
After Zinn published his thesis, he made it available to the police, who in turn did a case docket analysis of 1000 residential robbery cases. Their findings concurred with Zinn’s research.
“The police have implemented new policing initiatives. They have also created a new unit within crime intelligence that will deal with the debriefing of criminals behind bars,” said Zinn.
“They have approached our department for help to train their researchers.”
Zinn’s book quotes a report by the Institute for Security Studies which says that only 12.5% of cases of robbery with aggravating circumstances end up on the desks of state prosecutors.