In 2016, Unisa’s School of Criminal Justice conducted research into understanding and preventing house robbery in South Africa.
Based on in-depth interviews with convicted robbers they found that 8 out of 10 residential robberies are committed using information from domestic workers, gardeners and former employees.
Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT, says this is particularly worrying as residents usually view their domestic staff as a home’s first line of defence and they play a critical role in security.
“Homeowners need to be aware of the importance of vetting all staff very carefully. We recommend you use a specialist placement consultancy who can do the necessary background checks,” she said.
Although the survey is almost 3 years old now a number of the findings are still relevant, according to data from ADT Fidelity:
- 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 04h00;
- 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 and of all arrested robbers, 90% had no matric qualification or were unemployed.
“In our experience we have found that security measures like electric fences, detection beams and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) are still key deterrents to crime, as are pets. She says small dogs that sleep inside the house are seen as a deterrent,” said Hattingh.
“How secure your neighbourhood is, is also a meaningful factor. If robbers are scouting carefully they will view regular patrol and a strong neighbourhood watch system as a good reason to move on,” she said.
It is equally important that domestic staff always keep security gates on doors locked – they may not hear an intruder over the noise of the vacuum or know that someone has entered the house while they are in the backyard, said Hattingh.
“The bottom line is you always need to remain vigilant. Act as if you are being watched and take all necessary precautions. Your security starts with having the correct domestic and gardening employees who are well vetted and au fait with your security protocols, to having the right security measures around your home; to living in a community that supports and has good security protocols,” she said.