Research Study: Understanding and Preventing House Robbery in South Africa

House robberies are prevalent in South Africa, and it would not be uncommon to become a victim of this crime.  It is crucial to understand how this crime occurs and how to take preventative measures. 

What Is A House Robbery?

House robbery refers to a violent crime where the robber enters a home when there are people around.  House robberies might include the use of force or fear tactics such as intimidation or the use of weapons when taking any possessions in the home.  House robberies are prevalent in this country as about 50% of households have reported this crime’s incidences to the police.  Most house robberies usually occur in Gauteng, with over one-third of the reported cases in that province; and then followed by KwaZulu Natal.

Professor Rudolph Zinn conducted one of the most critical research studies that can be used to understand how house robberies occur and why they occur from the University of South Africa’s School of Justice.  His findings were published in his book titled Home Invasion: Robbers disclose what you should know. Dr Rudolph successfully conducted interviews with 30 convicted home robbers, and they shared their knowledge that they used to carry out house robberies.

Dr Rudolph Zinn discovered from the interviews that out of 19 residential robberies that occur, out of 8 times the robbers successfully carry out robberies with the assistance of housemaids, gardeners and any other workers who either currently work there or who were once employed there who give them information.  House robbers also tend to live close to their target homes, with a distance ranging from 10 to 30 minutes’ drive.

House robberies require careful planning, and house robbers will usually watch the house two weeks before carrying out their plan.  They target a particular group based on class or those who look wealthy. House robbers do not consider other demographical factors as class and influence are the only determining factor. They pick their affluent targets by looking for people who display wealth, such as wearing expensive jewellery and handbags.  

The time in which house robbers usually carry out robberies is between 19:00 and midnight when people are relaxing, eating and enjoying family time or sleeping.  Homes where the security systems or security beams are not activated, are deemed as easier to target. In most instances, house robbers are not discouraged by the presence of alarm systems and armed reaction services. Due to house robberies’ violent nature, 97% of the time, the robbers will be armed. 30% of those robbers have committed murder at one stage of their life and have mentioned they will not hesitate to do it again.

When it comes to understanding house robbers’ characteristics, it is essential to note that they tend to operate in gangs.  Each gang tends to consist of 4 members on average. Robbers are usually relatively young, with the average age being between 19 to 26 years. 17% of robbers are usually foreign nationals. 90% of the house robbers do not possess formal education as they do not have a matric qualification.

In contrast, others are unemployed and see robbery as being the only way to earn money. These house robbers will commit about 103 robberies on average in a period of over seven years before being caught.  Once caught, they may not get a hefty sentence as the conviction rate in South Africa for this crime is 7.67%.

Though all the research and its findings might be scary, there are ways you can make sure your home safe. Dr Rudolph Zinn’s study also included measures that you can take to reduce your home’s chances of being a target.  Here are some of the methods that were identified in the research to be significant deterrents;

  • Detection beams
  • Electric fences
  • Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) alarm systems
  • The presence of small dogs that sleep inside your home

Other security measures you can take to prevent house robberies include:

  1. Prioritize Landscaping

    Your home trees and shrubs, especially those near your windows, can be used as a hiding place before house robbers break into your house.  Therefore, you should consider trimming large trees and shrubs, or you could possibly plant bushes with thorns, so it is difficult to hide in those areas.
  1. Secure your Doors

    Securing your doors is one of the best options when protecting your home from attackers.  You can secure your doors by ensuring that there are strong frames of your exterior doors.  You can use technology and update your door by adding a smart lock or a video doorbell.
  1. Secure all Windows

    It is essential to check if all your windows are working correctly and that the latch can close.  A window that does not function properly can be ineffective when preventing house robbers from breaking in. Securing your windows also refers to windows that are located on the second floor. 
  1. Perform Reference Checks Before You Hire

    As indicated in Dr Rudolph Zinn’s research, the people you employ might assist the house robbers by offering them information to help when planning a break-in. For this reason, you need to be extra cautious when you hire your gardeners and maids, as they could put your life at risk. Perform reference checks before hiring anyone and always follow your gut about people.


The risks associated with house robberies are enough to scare anyone. By understanding how they occur from the perpetrators’ point of view, you can better prepare and take measures that will keep your home safe and possibly save your life.

Have a look at the 6 Home Security Hacks That Anyone Can Do and protect your humble abode.

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