A robber wearing a police uniform and in possession of a gun was arrested in Milnerton in Cape Town. Picture: Supplied
A robber wearing a police uniform and in possession of a gun was arrested in Milnerton in Cape Town. Picture: Supplied

Alarming house robbery increase in Gauteng

By Sameer Naik Time of article published Nov 28, 2020

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House robberies have increased across Gauteng in the past two months.

This is according to various private security companies in the province, who said they’ve seen a drastic increase since the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Robbers have specifically targeted the South and East of Johannesburg, with Alberton, Springs and Turffontein recording the highest numbers during October and November. There have also been various residential and business robberies in the North of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Robbery involves weapons while housebreaking doesn’t.

Wahl Bartmann, CEO of Fidelity Services Group, said one of the main reasons for the increase was the easing of lockdown.

“Criminals are always hard at work to find new ways and opportunities to commit crimes. During the hard lockdown and curfew, there was high visibility of SAPS and SANDF, so crime dropped,” he said.

A robber wearing a police uniform and in possession of a gun was arrested in Milnerton in Cape Town. Picture: Supplied

“We know that visible policing is key. Now that the economy has opened up, we are seeing a great deal of unemployment and financial strain.

“As people become more desperate, crime escalates. We are also approaching the festive season which traditionally sees an increase in crime.”

Bartmann said robbers mostly obtained inside information.

“The level of violence and also the brazenness in the modus operandi is definitely on the increase. We know that a staggering eight out of ten residential robberies are committed using information from domestic workers, gardeners and former employees.

“Home and business owners need to be aware of the importance of vetting all staff carefully. We recommend homeowners particularly use a specialist placement consultancy who can do the necessary background checks,” he said.

A gun confiscated after a business robbery in Pinelands Cape Town. Picture: SAPS

The South and East of Johannesburg have specifically been targeted.

Police cordoned off the scene after the suicide of a robber in the Pretoria city centre.

Bartmann said some areas were more diligent in reporting crime. “In Johannesburg South, for example, there is more intensive community involvement and police activity, so the numbers are probably more realistic than in some of the Northern areas.

“Statistics are also population based and the South and East have relatively higher densities.

“There is also a lack of security resources in these areas. Access for criminals is sometimes easier,” he said.

In 2016, UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice conducted research into understanding and preventing house robbery in South Africa. Although the survey was almost four years old, the findings were still relevant, said Bartmann.

“Robbers are monitoring homes for as long as two weeks. Most attacks occur between 7pm and midnight as people are relaxed, sleeping, cooking or watching TV and the security systems and beams are not activated. Robberies can also continue until 4am.

“97% of robbers are armed, and on average, an armed robbery gang has four members. An average of 30 percent 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 they were unemployed.”

The Umhlanga house of a robber who was shot by police. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Bartmann said various security measures such as electric fences, detection beams and closed circuit television (CCTV) have proven key deterrents to crime, as are pets. Small dogs that sleep inside the house are also seen as a deterrent.

“The bottom line is that you always need to remain vigilant. Act as if you are being watched and take all necessary precautions.”

Private security company Vision Tactical confirmed the house robbery increase.

“During lockdown, criminals weren’t able to move around freely but now everything has returned to normal. Criminals are capitalising on the fact that businesses are open and operational and people have started going away for holidays,” said communications manager Mohamed Ameen Dabhelia.

Vision Tactical has seen most house robberies in the East Rand, Tshwane, and Joburg North with the crimes becoming more violent.

“Some victims were choked to death and houses ransacked. Petty crimes have also picked up quite rapidly including cellphone and bag snatching in various areas.

“As unemployment rises, criminals are desperate. It’s the sad reality we are faced with,” said Dabhelia.

Beagle Watch Armed Response said aside from the recent house robbery increase, criminals were also becoming smarter and were well prepared.

“They come in smart cars and wear smart clothing, and they know exactly how to act,” said Andre Aiton, Managing Director of Beagle Watch Security.

He said they have witnessed various robberies in the past two months.

“These robberies have been violent. It’s why I urge residents to reach out and attend my zoom calls based on how to best protect yourself and what to do in the event of a home invasion.”

Aitron has urged all homeowners to be vigilant, particularly with the festive period coming up.

“This is one of the most important things that I cannot emphasise enough. It does not help spending fortunes on your security. It starts with you and being vigilant.”

The Saturday Star

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