KwaZulu-Natal -

Elderly families are more likely to be held up in armed robberies because they are physically weaker and seen as soft targets.

But younger families are at greater risk of being burgled.

Statistical information leading to such conclusions has been revealed in the first volume of Statistics SA’s Crime Statistics Series, which provides an in-depth analysis of data on house robberies and burglaries.

KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng top the list of provinces in house robberies - where there is contact between the victims and perpetrators - and house burglaries, with Pinetown, Hillcrest, Newlands West and Kloof being hot spots.

But the analysis also shows that households headed by individuals in the 25-34 age groups were common victims of burglaries, as opposed to households where the head of the house was 55 or older.

“It is interesting to note that although housebreaking/burglary was least likely to affect those 55 and older, this age category had a higher likelihood of being affected by home robberies,” the study said.

Blue Security operations director Henk van Bemmelen said the older generation were more severely targeted by armed robbers as they were physically weaker and their homes often did not have the latest security systems.

“Younger families tend to invest in security and, although housebreakers target them, it becomes riskier for criminals to stay on a property for too long when an alarm has been triggered.”

Predictably, evening hours were the most common time for burglars to break into houses and robbers to hold families up, the report stated.

Westville SAPS spokesman Stephen Clark said most house robberies took place between 5pm and 9pm and in almost all cases there was no forced entry.

“Crooks follow the path of least resistance.

“They do not want to climb fences, tackle three Rottweilers and then try to get through a gate while the house owner loads his gun. They want to just walk in.

“In 90 percent of cases they get into the house through an open front door, which is visible from the road.”

However, Clark said, the times varied for house break-ins, but they were common in mid-morning after people had left for work, afternoons around 2pm when mothers left the house to fetch children and in the early hours, about 2am and 3am, when people were in their deepest sleep.

The analysis revealed that about 48 percent of home robbery victims were injured when physical force was used during the robbery and they resisted, whereas only about 21 percent of victims were injured when they did not resist.

Of the injuries that led to victims being admitted to hospital, the use of a knife was the main cause, accounting for 60 percent of cases.

Clark said while most injuries were caused by criminals using knives, these robbers did not intend to kill their victims but merely wanted to “poke and prod them” to force compliance.

House robbers liked to think of themselves as predators, so they did not like to see their victims, who were supposed to be the weak parties, fight back.

“Most of the time the injuries are caused to elderly people,” said Clark, “because for some reason they think they are stronger than they are and fight back.”

In his preface to the report, Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said it was evident that crime instilled fear and possibly even hindered people’s abilities to engage in day-to-day activities.

“Despite the measures to combat crime, it remains a challenge for the victims and those responsible for crime prevention,” he said.

Clinical psychologist Marita Rademeyer said crime affected even those who had not been victims - if they knew someone who had suffered, they experienced second-hand stress.

“Our stress responses are affected by crime, and it is our children and geriatrics who suffer more,” she said. - The Mercury