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An exploration of communal responses to burglary at residential premises in the Cato Crest informal settlement of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province.

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Violence and crime in countries such as South Africa are shaped by deep socio-economic inequalities; however, the spatial designs of urban areas and housing also play a role, but often in differing ways. There is little qualitative research published on communal responses to burglary in informal settlements where the hyper-permeability of housing structures directly shapes residents’ experiences of crime. This dissertation reflects on the wider literature on the consequences and experiences community members have on residential burglary. The dissertation examines the nature, effects, responses and programmes to curb burglary in the informal settlement area of Cato Crest, Durban. It asserts that the informal settlement have serious adverse effects on the people’s housing quality and their built environment. The secondary data was obtained from books, journals and seminar papers Data were obtained through semi-structured one-on-one interviews with the community members of Cato Crest informal settlement. The study provides a range of new insights into the problem of burglary and confirms some of the findings from research previously conducted elsewhere. The analysis of the area reveals that both the burglary rate and the proportion of repeat burglaries are much higher in the public housing areas. The high burglary rate in this area is partly attributable to the large number of burglaries of vacant public housing dwellings, usually involving the theft of household items such as mobile phones, stoves and television sets. Various research and policy implications emerge from the study, such as: the need to address police data quality issues; the need for the police or the nearby clinics to employ psychologists that will be readily available for the victims who experienced burglaries and cannot cope; the need for greater clarification in defining what is meant by repeat burglary victimisation; the need to provide programs for the community to curb burglary; the need for greater cooperation between the police and the community members to curb such crimes as burglary. Therefore, government is encouraged to see informal settlements as a solution to new city planning rather than a problem to the urban areas. This research study suggests the implementation of policies and planning, physical infrastructural development, social economic improvement, environment and health improvement. Government, the private sector and communities’ interventions on informal settlements are required in order to prevent burglaries by making sure the perpetrators are punished and the victims are taken care of.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.