Burglars prefer 'working' Sundays

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 February, 2008, 12:00am

Thieves reveal how they target homes

Empty households on Sunday afternoons are the most susceptible to burglars, who usually act on a whim after spotting an easy target, a study by anti-crime experts has found.

The Wan Chai District Fight Crime Committee interviewed 47 male burglars aged 20 to 60 in prisons, between August and November last year, about the factors leading to the crime.

Only 17 per cent of the interviewees were first-time convicts. Others reported multiple burglary attempts, with about one in 10 saying they had committed burglary more than a hundred times.

Almost three-quarters reported that they burgled premises on Sundays, with Saturdays and public holidays much less popular.

Nearly half said they broke into houses in the afternoon, and about a third did so at night.

John Tse Wing-ling, chairman of the committee, said the pattern of burglary was different from what people popularly understand.

'It is not true that burglars are active during public holidays, weekends [meaning Saturdays] and nighttime,' Dr Tse said. 'And the study has found out that almost all of them did not plan their crimes beforehand, contrary to common belief.'

He said most burglaries were committed spontaneously when burglars were in places familiar to them. Seventy per cent reported that they were alone when committing the crime. Forty per cent said they were at home when they decided to commit a burglary, while about the same number said they were roaming the street.

Dr Tse said cash remained the key motivator for burglars, with a third of the interviewees jobless when they committed the crime, while the rest engaged in low-paid jobs. However, a quarter of them said excitement and curiosity were also motivations.

'During the conversations, we found that they were triggered to commit burglaries when walking past houses or flats that were not properly locked,' he said. 'So, small safety measures may prevent the crime, as they tend to choose easy targets only.

'Nearly 40 per cent of burglars said they did not hesitate at all before taking action. Most of the convicts said they thought they could get away easily and did not expect serious punishment. But these are all wrong perceptions.'

Committee vice-chairman and lawyer Lam Sek-kong said burglary was a serious crime because it involved trespassing. Theft crimes usually attract up to two years in jail, whereas burglary can lead to up to seven years' imprisonment.

In the study, three-quarters of the men said they had at least one friend who had committed burglary before their first conviction.

Dr Tse said it was important to provide job opportunities for released offenders to prevent relapses into crime.

The study, conducted by the committee with the help of the faculty of applied social science at City University, was sponsored by the Committee on Community Support of Rehabilitated Offenders.

Safe as houses

There were 5,315 burglaries in 2006

This figure fell to 4,512 in 2007, representing a drop of 15.1%