Cablegate: Home Invasions On the Rise
R 071531Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6383
INFO AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN
UNCLAS PRETORIA 002476
FOR DS/DSS, DS/IP/AF, DS/DSS/OSAC, DS/TIA/ITA, DS/IP/OPO, AND AF/EX
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC AMGT ALOW ABLD SF
SUBJECT: HOME INVASIONS ON THE RISE
1. (U) Summary: On November 4, 2008 RSO attended a presentation
hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on the "Incidence
of House Robberies in South Africa." Presented by a Senior Lecturer
on Forensic Investigations at the University of South Africa
(UNISA), the seminar focused on the alarming increase in house
robberies (commonly referred to as home invasions) in South Africa.
According to police statistics, the number of home invasions that
typically involve violence or the threat of violence against
residents has increased 25.4% since 2006. End Summary.
2. (U) On November 4, 2008 RSO attended a seminar hosted by the
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on the "Incidence of House
Robberies in South Africa." The presenter, Dr. Rudolf Zinn, is a
Senior Lecturer on Forensic Investigations at the UNISA who has
written extensively on crime trends in South Africa. Dr. Zinn's most
recent study focuses on the rapid increase in house robberies,
otherwise known as home invasions, where criminals intent on
maximizing profits specifically target homes where the residents are
at home. According to police statistics, the number of home
invasions since 2006 has increased 25.4%, while house burglaries
(where no confrontation between residents and perpetrators occurs)
have decreased steadily.
3. (U) To understand the causes behind the increase, Dr. Zinn
conducted a qualitative study that involved interviews of thirty
convicts currently serving time in prisons across South Africa. The
results showed that the inmates unanimously preferred home invasions
over traditional burglaries because they are more lucrative. By
targeting homes between the hours of 7pm and midnight, criminals
knew that the residents were awake and did not have their alarm
systems on. Of greater concern, however, was the admission that the
violence or the threat of violence could be used to force victims to
reveal where valuables were hidden. In instances where people
failed to comply with demands, they often tortured children or women
to get what they wanted. Eighty-three percent said they would rather
shoot or injure their victims than take any personal risk. The
respondents also indicated a strong preference for cash, jewelry,
and other valuables that could not be easily traced.
4. (U) Affluent neighborhoods continue to be the top targets for
home invasions. Houses with little or no security were chosen first
although those with "a lot of security" were sometimes targeted
because of the perception that the owners must have cash or very
valuable items to protect. In most cases, the criminals conducted
pre-operational surveillance to identify homeowner's habits or
weaknesses in security. Mobile patrol schedules were also observed
to establish patterns and identify optimal times to conduct home
invasions. Inside information, especially when large sums of cash
are at stake, was used to determine which houses to target.
How does this impact us?
5. (U) The increase in home invasions is troubling given the
criminal's propensity for violence. When asked what security
features had the greatest deterrent effect against home invasions,
Dr. Zinn's subjects said that homes with fences, dogs, security
lights, and alarm systems connected to armed response companies made
them less desirable targets. The single most effective
countermeasure, however, was frequent and unpredictable security
patrols because they made pre-operational activities difficult.
Qpatrols because they made pre-operational activities difficult.
6. (U) The Emergency Action Committee approved a policy in January
2007 that required post housing to transition from stand-alone
residences to apartments, gated communities, and compounds. This
remains a top priority. By August 2009, 74.9% of leased residences
(113 homes) will be in compounds or gated communities.