Beaches, Bungalows and Burglaries

Dear Plett residents,

When we think of Plettenberg Bay we visualize tranquility, beauty and a carefree safe environment.  We sometimes forget  we are staying in South Africa which is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and we tend to relax and become complacent to the risk of crime in and around our town. I am writing this article to encourage people to become more vigilant, and to be more observant around your home. Do an evaluation on your current security system, make sure your alarms and electric fencing are activated when you are not home and at night.  Make sure the equipment is in good working condition and up to date; do a test by pressing your panic button or activate your alarm to see if your response company calls you!

The past two months have seen an increase in general house robberies in Plett where the perpetrators enter the properties via the roof and windows without burglar bars.  The group most targeted are unoccupied holiday homes and in several of these houses, the criminals went in with one goal — to get access to the safes and jewelry!  Some of the victims had their safes removed from their properties to access the content at an undisclosed venue.  The criminals use sophisticated equipment and have no set time for executing the break-ins.  Lately we have been called out to armed robberies between 20:00 – 22:00 while families are relaxed and watching TV after dinner!

The burglars who have been operating in Plett consist of four armed assailants. The group is well informed with specific details, which poses a lot of questions and which is of great concern! They know owners’ names, movements, placement of safes, how many weapons are in the safe, and they even go as far as telling the owners which weapons they want from the safe! Their main aim is to get weapons, jewelry, and cash!

We have combined all our security resources to try and apprehend the group, but so far we have not been successful.

We ask the public to make sure of your surroundings; if you see any suspicious vehicle or people who look out of place, if your alarm goes off or the dogs bark, don’t go out of your safety zone inside your house.  If you feel unsafe contact the PBCPA’s call center on (082) 251-8134 — we will dispatch our team immediately to investigate.  

Some information to consider:
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, this is what was found:
• 8 out of 10 residential robberies are committed with the help of information from security companies, maids, gardeners,  former employees, and in some cases the information leaked from the DFO!
• 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 04:00.
• 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.
• Only 17% of house robbers are foreigners.
• Of all arrested robbers, 90% had no matric qualification or were unemployed. The 10% who had been employed gave up their jobs when confirming how much they could ‘earn’ from a robbery.
• Most victims or targets are affluent persons who openly display their wealth, for example wearing expensive jewelry.
• The average robber commits 103 robberies over 7 years before getting caught.
• Most attackers’ homes or ‘bases’ are a 10 to 30-minute drive from the target address.
• The conviction rate for house robberies in South Africa is only 7.67%. In the USA it is 53%.
• Robbers are not deterred by alarms and armed reaction services.

These security measures are a major deterrent to crime:
• Electric fences
• Detection beams
• Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
• Small dogs that sleep inside the house (robbers consider this to be the biggest deterrent of all.)
• In the words of Dr. Rudolph Zinn from his book Home Invasion – “They scout a neighborhood to see how tight the security is. A patrol or neighborhood watch factors in 68% on whether they go in or not, so having a good neighborhood watch in the area can be a major deterrent.”

Before you leave your house…
• Make sure all shrubs and trees are trimmed back so that they do not allow a burglar to conceal himself while attempting to open a window or door. If possible, plant bushes with prickly thorns around these locations.
• Don’t stop your security awareness at the outside walls of your house. Your yard areas (if any) also deserve attention. In general, don’t leave anything around the yard that might help a burglar get into your house. Ladders, stackable boxes or any garden tools should be put away, preferably in a locked cabinet. Many burglars have used the property owner’s own tools to break into a home.
• Don’t place outdoor furniture tables nearby the house, as these could become an easy stepladder to the roof.  Rather move them inside in the evening.
• Second-story windows are often left unsecured, making it easy for the criminal to get into the house. To discourage potential climbers, spread grease on any metal drainpipes if they are close to windows.
• A barking dog, changing your daily routine and the presence of CCTV cameras could make your home a less attractive target to criminals.
• Since robbers can watch your movements for as long as two weeks, try to deviate from your usual routine regularly. Leave and return home at different times, use different routes and visit different shops to what you typically do.
• Take extreme care when hiring domestic workers and other service providers.  Be careful who you let into your home.
• Make sure you have details of your maid and gardener: Full-color copy of their ID, also a good quality close up color photo, taken with your phone!  Some proof of address.

If you have any questions or need a security evaluation, please feel free to contact me on 083 408 1911 Marius Venter.  We will get professional people out to evaluate your current system and advise on what else can be offered to make your property safe.

Marius Venter

Plett Ratepayers Association