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Home robbery and housebreaking are among the most frightening and dangerous crimes to experience. It is frightening because it violates our private space and the one place that we think of as our sanctuary.

What do the latest statistics tell us about home robberies and housebreaking in South Africa? According to the latest report released by Statistics South Africa, Exploring the extent of and circumstances surrounding housebreaking/burglary and home robbery, the general crime rate in terms of the proportion of households that experience crime has been declining during the last five years. This reality, however, has not quelled the growing perception that crime is on the increase in South Africa.

Over 50 per cent of all crimes experienced by households in South Africa in 2015/16 were housebreaking. Home robbery (11,9 per cent) was the second most common type of crime experienced by South African households. Whites had the highest rates of victimisation compared to other groups both in 2011 and 2015/16. However, whites experienced the sharpest decline of household related crimes during the five years, from 17 per cent to 12 per cent of households.

“Home robbery” is regarded as a violent crime because people are at home when it takes place as compared to “housebreaking” (burglary), which occurs when the family is away from home. Home robbery fuels fear in communities, because it puts people at risk of personal injury and emotional trauma in their homes, where they should feel safest.

Housebreaking and home robbery peaked during the months of March and June in both 2014/15 and 2015/16. The months during which these crimes were least likely to occur were January, May and November. As found in previous Victims of Crime Surveys, night-time is still the most preferred time for crime incidents.

Electrical equipment were the most targeted items during both housebreakings and home robberies. Jewellery, money and cellphones were the second most common items stolen after electrical equipment during both housebreakings and home robberies.