Residential burglary in South Africa : why individual households adopt reactive strategies

23 Jan 2008

Residential burglary is a serious problem in South Africa, considering its high occurrence rate and the financial and psychological impact it has on peoples' lives. Victims of residential burglary may rightfully ask why their residences were targeted and what they could have done to prevent it. Hypothetically, the answers might be found in the perceived vulnerability of a specific residence in time and space, and how the burglar relates to it. In the absence of effective and enduring crime prevention initiatives at the local level, individual households increasingly realise the need for self-protection as well as private security measures in their immediate environment. The aim of this article is thus to provide a conceptual framework that can be applied in the micro-environment to explain the occurrence of a burglary event and to suggest prevention measures and initiatives to curb this type of crime. The conceptual framework was constructed on the theoretical perspectives gained through a burglary study conducted by Van Zyl (2002) in two case study areas in the Greater Pretoria metropolitan area, namely the police station areas of Pretoria West and Garsfontein. Although the study was designed within the qualitative research paradigm, both qualitative and quantitative techniques were used. Research data were gathered through primary (semi-structured interviews) and secondary (statistics and documents) sources. The analysis strategy applied in the study, can be described as "pattern-matching logic", where the initial conceptual framework served as a model against which the codified data could be evaluated. The findings of the study confirmed the usefulness of the conceptual framework in that it provided an integrated understanding of the burglary process and gave a structured and systematic description of the components and elements involved in the burglary process. Central emphasis was placed on the situational conditions that might contribute to the vulnerability of residences. Consequently an integrated framework for the prevention of residential burglary was developed that integrates the efforts of individual households with those of the local communities and law enforcement agencies in the prevention of crime.