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Literature Review: Burglary and Crime Prevention

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3058 words Published: 10th Jul 2018

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The literature study in this study revolved around a document analysis on the Constitution, (SA 1996: Constitution), Crime Prevention Strategies, previous studies in the field by discussing the following concepts: environmental criminology, the burglary/robbery process, motivation, target selection, residents’ activities and lifestyle, accessibility of neighbourhood, perspective on environmental crime prevention, crime prevention through environmental design, situational crime prevention.


A range of factors including social, economic, demographic, biological, psychological and physical, influence the occurrence of crime. According to Naude (2000:7) high levels of crime are more prevalent in countries where there is a high proportion of people who feel economically deprived.

From the suspects arrested for housebreaking residential and house robbery in Westville policing area for the period 2012/2013 it is evident that the suspects are not resident in Westville policing area.

This study will therefore focus on locations of crime, the characteristics of those locations, the movement paths that bring offenders and victims together at those locations as it would be easier to alter the environmental opportunities for crime than to influence the complex soci-economic factors motivating offenders (Smith 1986:82). This was also found in Naude (1988:11) who stated that it would be easier to prevent opportunities for crime in the physical environment, since committing the crime can mainly be attributed to rational decisions rather than being the result of pathological, biophysical, psychological or social factors. Sovensend in (David 2003:7) argues that a crime only occurs when there is integration in what motivates the offender to commit the crime.

The aim would thus be as also found in Smith (1986:84), to reduce opportunities for crime as perceived by potential offenders, by introducing target hardening, target removal, reducing the payoff and encouraging public surveillance.


This process refers to the causal events within a specific time and space context that leads to the commission of the offence. For burglary/robbery to take place there must be a ready, willing and able offender, a vulnerable attractive provocative target, a favourable environment and the absence of a willing, able and credible modulator (Ekblom 1996:47-50). According to Wilcox (1990:1) the following elements must be present in order for a crime to occur: Desire, Ability and Opportunity. This is depicted in the crime triangle below Fig.2.3.1


The desire and ability refers to the characteristics of a criminal or potential criminal and the opportunity, conditions conducive to a criminal act. The absence of any one of the elements will result in no crime taking place.

For a crime to occur the potential perpetrator must have a need and a target. According to Brangtinham and Brantingham (1993:268) the search for a suitable targets rests on a general backcloth formed by routine activities and on a template that helps identify what a great chance is or what a good opportunity would be or how to search for chance and opportunities. By performing daily routines of non-criminal activities the triggered potential burglar develops an awareness space. In accordance with his/her idealized crime template, his/her target will be searched in the awareness space. When the potential burglar finds such a target, he/she will commit the burglary. It is important to realize that the triggered event, the probable crime template, the activity backcloth and the criminal readiness are interrelated. They further went on to say that mixed-use developments are likely to contain a variety of land-users which could potentially provide increased and more diverse opportunities for crime. Shopping malls, storage places, schools, and service stations and restaurants tend to attract criminals as well as legitimate customers to the area. The routine activities of the community (including potential offenders) will therefore affect the incidence of crime in and around these nodes of activity, which are systematically more concentrated in mixed-use developments. Westville’s mixed land development ensures many persons outside Westville to traverse into Westville for work, leisure and potential criminal activity.

The above indicate that criminals identify their targets during their day to day activities identifying those areas where they would not be easily identified, are easily accessible and are affluent.

Research on burglaries done by (Brantingham and Brantingham 1981, Rengert and Wasilchick 1985) suggests that residential burglars engage in a search process along “activity spaces” in order to select neighbourhoods in which to commit burglaries. Neighbourhoods are chosen along familiar routes and this is done during the day to day movement of the burglars. This was also found in Schneider and Kitchen 2002:107 who stated that , offenders , like ordinary people, have day to day schedules which involve trips to and from work, visiting friends, going shopping and it is during the course of these activities that they search out likely targets. These targets may even be repeatedly victimised.

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The busyness of a location also creates opportunities for criminal activities as was found in Shover (1991) who stated that the busyness and anonymity of a large city attracts those who earn a living through crime as it reduces the possibility of offenders being recognised as strangers. This view was also held by Rubenstein H, Murray C, Motoyama T and Rouse W (1980) who reported that heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic flows were associated with higher victimisation rates as it creates high-density environments and this reduces the risk of strangers and potential offenders being recognised.


According to Reppetto (1972:21) the satisfaction of a perceived need for money appeared to be the primary motive for most burglaries although offenders did acknowledge that subsidiary satisfactions such as excitement revenge curiosity and feelings of group solidarity also played a role in their decision to offend. This was also found in the study done by Dr. Zinn( ) where he interviewed 30 convicted residential robbery perpetrators on the motivation for offending. 97% of the perpetrators in the study stated their motivation being economic gain; the victims were target because of their wealth. 80% stated that their families and friends and acquaintances in their communities had knowledge of their criminal activities. They stated that residential robbery resulted in quick money.

In a study done by May (2011:70) it was found that the majority of perpetrators reported that unemployment triggered their aggravated robbery.


The manner in which criminals select potential crime sites, penetrate a variety of symbolic and physical barriers to commit crime, has drawn attention from environmental criminologists.

Weatherburn (2001:6) states that criminals commit more crime when the opportunities to do so are more and incentives to do so are good. The following are factors that are conducive for the selection of a possible target: lax physical security, lax personal security, lax law enforcement or low perceived risk of apprehension, attractive commercial or residential targets and easy opportunities for selling or disposing of stolen goods.

In Bernasco and Nieuwbeerta (2004:297) it was found that burglars target specific areas that offer increased revenue, requires minimal effort when the premises or property is entered, the premises/property appear to have valuable items; and the burglars feel (perceive) that they will not be apprehended or disturbed while conducting the burglary (low risk of being detected and apprehended. They further state on (2004:297-298) that the burglar would look at the affluence level of the property; and the possibility (likelihood) of the successful completion of the criminal act. The wealth displayed in the form of properties and vehicles by Westville residents may be what criminal are drawn to.

Felson and Clark (1988) states that there are four elements designated by acronym VIVA that influences a targets risk of being victimized by crime namely: value, target must be rewarding , inertia, the ability of the target to be moved, visibility, exposure of targets to offenders, access, all those environmental and situational features that my facilitate offenders getting to the target.

Sovensend (2003:17) is of the opinion that burglars estimate the potential rewards by assessing the size and condition of houses, yards, and vehicles parked in garages. Conspicuous evidence of wealth places a property at a higher risk of victimisation. As is the case in Westville which is an affluent area.

However, Wessel (2002:13) argues that there is evidence that most expensive looking homes are spared for fear of security devices or the presence of staff on the property.

According to Tilley, N Pease, K Hough, M Brown, R ( 1999:7) that burglars target areas were there is a possibility of high value valuables, nobody present to prevent the burglary from taking place, that there is a market where the stolen goods can be disposed of and in return receive a monetary incentive for the stolen goods and the dwelling have insufficient security hardware to provide it with any reasonable level of perceived guardianship (protection)

This was supported by Reppetto (1971:16) in his study he obtained from the interviewees as to the reason for selection of their targets being, ease of access, appears affluent, feels inconspicuous, presence not be questioned, isolated neighbourhoods, few police patrols and anonymity of neighbours.

Kleemans ( 1996:55) in his findings as to why perpetrators repeatedly victimise he said, the first is the knowledge the burglar has obtained about the goods to be stolen, the second time the burglar can steal the goods he/she could not transport the first time, the goods that he/she forgot to steal the first time; or the goods for which he/she has only now found a potential client for, the burglar can be reassured that after a time the goods stolen the first time have been replaced, knows the risk factors (layout of the house, the ease of access and egress).

Pease (1998:6) argued that the key reasons for repeats are believed to be the presence of good, and lack of bad, consequences of the first crime for the offender, and the stability of the situation which presents itself to an offender on the first and subsequent visits to the scene of his/her crime.


According to Garland F White (1990:59) permeability is the number of access streets from traffic arteries to the neighbourhoods. He is of the opinion that permeable neighbourhoods may provide less risk of apprehension for offenders as there are more escape routes. In addition they may be more likely to be selected for burglaries on the basis of chance. If a neighbourhood has more avenues of access, the chance of an offender entering it while searching for a burglary location would be greater.

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Schneider and Kitchen (2007:121) reported on a study which compared a dense permeable housing estate with a lower density estate dominated by cul-de- sac. Their finding was that burglaries, auto crime, arson and public disorder were significantly higher for the area with a higher density permeable development. They were cautious to note that there are many other factors, other that density and street layout, which may help to explain these patterns

Although neighbourhood permeability has been linked to neighbourhood crime rates, the results have not always been conclusive. An experimental study in Hartford Connecticut (Fowler 1982) found that decreasing the number of entrances to the experimental neighbourhood and thereby decreasing the amount of traffic did not necessarily reduce robberies and burglaries in the long run although there was a short-term reduction in crimes. The pattern of victimisation moved from less-travelled side streets to the more heavily travelled streets in the district. The study suggests that a reduction in crime could be achieved both when physical permeability is reduced and when the neighbourhood is organized socially to prevent crimes. The physical changes alone were not enough to produce a long term reduction in crime.

(Taylor and Nee 1988) are of the opinion that dwellings which are more visible from the street or neighbours and passers-by, are less desirable as a target for burglars. David WM Sovensend 2003:17 were of the same opinion. He also stated that burglars tend to avoid targets easily observed by neighbours or passers-by. Therefore, it can be deduced that houses in isolated areas, not visible from the road and on large properties of land which are next to parks or other non-residential areas are more attractive to burglars.

A study by Davison and Smith (2003) revealed that crime was more frequent in accessible areas with commercial land use and residential burglary was reported to be more frequent in residential properties close to commercial areas (Dietrick 1977). Research by Wilcox and Quisenberry (2004) revealed that businesses in residential areas exhibited an increased risk of burglary. Yang’s research (2006) which investigated some three thousand burglaries, found that burglaries are more likely to occur in properties located in mixed-use sites. Brantingham and Brantingham (2008:91) have discussed mixing land-users as supported by New Urbanism and commented “this planning practice will increase the activity in some nodes and is likely to produce a clustering of crime”


Currently crime prevention is the primary function of the South African Police Service.

The South African Police is mandated by the Police Act 68 of 1995 as well as section 205(3) of the constitution to combat crime, investigate crime, maintain public order, protect and secure South Africa’s inhabitants and their property; and to uphold and enforce the law.

However the SAPS are not in a position to effectively combat crime on their own.

The Government since 1994 recognised the need for crime prevention. This need saw the acceptance of the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) in 1996 and the White Paper on Safety and Security in 1998. The NCPS is a multi-agency approach to crime prevention and aimed to influence the operations of the Departments of Safety and Security, Justice, Correctional Services, Welfare, Intelligence, Health and Education. The NCPS document made mention of environmental design as one of its pillars (1996:67). To assist the NCPS and the White Paper on Safety and Security, a National Crime Prevention Strategy Centre (NCPSC) was established within the department of Safety and Security and their functions are to mobilise other government departments, to assist provincial and local government in preventing crime, to assist in co-ordinating and managing the prevention of certain crimes and to monitor the effectiveness of social crime prevention interventions.

The White Paper on Safety and Security (South Africa 1998:14) places emphasis on two approaches to crime prevention, viz, crime prevention through effective criminal justice and, social crime prevention.

The White Paper (1998:19) further states that social crime prevention can be categorized as follows, viz. developmental crime prevention, situational crime prevention, community crime prevention and continuous improvement to the integrated Justice System.

A multi-departmental or multi-sectoral approach is thus needed, which involves all levels of government and includes relevant organisations of civil society (South Africa 1998:20)

According to the Crime Prevention Module level 1 (2001:9) crime prevention emphasises community involvement and without community involvement, crime cannot be prevented effectively. To accomplish this Police have to form a partnership with other role players which include but not limited to, the community, private security companies, business Against Crime (BAC), media, non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’S), etc.

Naude and Stevens (1998:48) argue that co-operation must be forged by means of guidance, meetings and interaction with businessmen, public and use of media to succeed in long preventative programme. The researcher supports the arguments of Naude and Stevens as this can filter through to the prevention of house robberies and housebreaking residential in the Westville policing precinct. Lab (1997:19) states that prevention activities should not be restricted to the efforts of the criminal justice system alone but should include that of the public and private organisations.

According to Bennett and Wright (1984:19) situational crime prevention refers to any environmental community or individual based method which aims to increase the risk, decrease the reward or increase the difficulty of committing the crime.

Brantingham and Faust (1976:284) offer three types of crime prevention approaches viz, primary crime prevention (the identification of those conditions in the physical and social environment that offer opportunities for criminal acts), secondary crime prevention, the early identification of offenders (the intervention before an offence is committed), tertiary crime prevention (this aims to deal with offenders with the purpose of preventing further criminal activities).

Lab (1997:20) is of the opinion that primary crime prevention is to put measures in place with the aim of making crime less attractive and more difficult for the offenders to commit whilst secondary prevention focuses on problems that already exist and are fostering deviant behaviour. Lab (1997:23) states that tertiary prevention includes arrests, prosecutions, incarceration, treatment and rehabilitation.


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