2008-07-17 : Inside the mind of a robber

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2008-07-17 : Inside the mind of a robber

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2008-10-21 13:58

Inside the mind of a robber

July 17 2008 at 06:47AM

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By Shaun Smillie

One in three house robbers have murdered and on average they commit 104
crimes before the law finally catches up with them. And with each crime
perpetrated over an average period of seven-and-a-half years, they become
more and more violent.

This is the disturbing profile of a convicted house robber revealed in a
study conducted by senior forensic investigation lecturer at Unisa, Dr
Rudolph Zinn.

It was a research project that left Zinn, an ex-police officer, shocked at
how willing this category of criminal was to resort to violence.

'They strike when their victims are still awake'
House robberies are on the increase; they have risen by more than 13,5
percent in the last year, according to police. In total, almost 15 000 house
robberies were committed last year, half of them in Gauteng. But until
Zinn's research, little was known about this brand of criminal.

Zinn found that most house robbers are aged between 19 and 26, but that
their criminal careers, began when they were in their teens.

"I discovered that the youngest person committing house robberies was 12. I
also found that the younger the person when they began their life of crime,
the more violent they were later in life," explained Zinn.

In the course of his two-year long research project, Zinn interviewed 30
convicted house robbers who were serving time in six high security prisons
around Gauteng.

"I found that 30 percent of them had murdered while committing a house
robbery. They simply said that they have to use violence. I think those
criminals who respect human life would probably stop before they become
house robbers, " said Zinn.

'Easy come, easy go'
His study also exposed the myth that most house robbers were black and

"About 17 percent of them were foreigners, the rest came from all race
groups and cultures across South Africa," he explained.

They were, however, generally from poor backgrounds.

About 90 percent had not got a matric and most, Zinn found, were unemployed.

"I found a small group who were employed, but they gave up their jobs, when
they found out just how much they could make.

"One of them told me he makes more money in five minutes than I do in a
month," he said.

Another myth dispelled was that their victims were mainly white.

Their targets were usually affluent home owners who displayed their wealth
with jewellery, double storey residences and fancy cars.

Their modus operandi, Zinn's subjects told him, revolved around gathering
intelligence about their intended victims, usually from a domestic worker.

"If they don't have inside information, they will keep the house under
observation for a long time.

"They might send an accomplice into the house to check it out, he might
pretend he is there to inspect TV licences."

Part of their reconnaissance also includes establishing which security firms
operate in the area, how often they patrol and how long it takes for them to
react to a call out.

The observation of their victims continue right up until they are ready to
commit their crime, often they will hide in the garden watching the house.

"They strike when their victims are still awake, at night or in the morning.
They use the noise of TV sets, or cooking as cover. At this time they told
me, most people haven't armed their alarms," Zinn explained.

Usually four members make up a house robbery gang. The modus operandi is for
one of the gang members to gain access through a small window. The tools
used to break in, are usually scavenged from the home owner's shed. House
robbers, Zinn's research found, don't carry house breaking tools, as they
believe it makes it easier for police to spot them while they make their way
to their target.

The random use of excessive violence has so puzzled researchers that
currently, says Zinn, several academics are conducting studies to try and
ascertain why.

Zinn would not disclose, for security reasons, just how much on average
house robbers would make from a robbery. He has, however, been able to break
down what they spend their money on.

"Easy come, easy go is what one of them said. Most of their earnings are
spent on luxuries, branded clothing, parties and prostitutes."

This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on July 17, 2008
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