In his book, Home Invasion: Robbers disclose what you should know, Prof Rudolph Zinn gives inside info about how convicted perpetrators planned and executed house burglaries.
Zinn is a senior lecturer in forensic and crime investigation at Unisa.
This is what you need to know:

Profiling perpetrators

Thirty research subjects who were interviewed during Zinn’s research conformed to the following:
• All were men, except for two women who were convicted as accessories
• They represented SA’s racial demographic profile
• 83% were SA citizens and the rest were from other African countries
• They were aged 19 to 26
• On average they would form a group of four during an attack
• Only 20% had completed high school
•  76% were unemployed but a number of these had chosen to make money solely from burglaries
• 80% had not received any type of military- or security-related training and the rest had been employed as security guards or worked in the police or military
• All were experienced criminals
• Each admitted to having committed approximately 103 crimes over a seven-year period before being arrested for the first time
• 70% came from what was described as dysfunctional or broken homes
• A distinctive characteristic was the willingness to use lethal violence against victims.

Why burglars burgle

• 97% stated the primary factor was economic gain
• 22% had also been involved in farm attacks
• 65% of what was stolen was spent on cars, clothes, drugs, and alcohol and 35% was spent on survival, i.e. food and rent
• The victims were targeted because of their wealth and other demographical factors such as race played no part
• A contributory factor was the existence of role-models in their communities who were criminals and were wealthy because of this
• 80% stated that their families, friends and acquaintance knew that they were involved in crime
Residential robbery was chosen because it resulted in more money more quickly and chances of being caught were seen as very low
All the perpetrators started with non-violent property crimes.
There are many ways in which a homeowner can secure their property to prevent any potential intruder, the number one method is to install an approved security system as they are proven deterrents. Alarm monitoring of this system is a must as it is a lifeline to the emergency services should something happen. However, here are some low cost, quick and easy tips for extra security at your home.
At Night Time
• Ensure all belongings are stored securely and out of sight.
Ensure all windows and doors are locked.
• During warmer weather people tend to leave a window open at night – make sure the alarm is switched on to compensate.
• Keep blinds and curtains closed – being able to see what is inside will only tempt burglars.
Choose venetian blinds over curtains – burglars hate them as it makes it more difficult to enter a property. They can also be quite noisy.
• Do not leave car keys in hallways or in sight of burglars.
• Keep house and car keys concealed but close by for quick emergency exits.
Leave lights on where possible e.g. hallway – light deters burglars.
• Fit low cost sensor lights at front, back and sides of property.
• Use solar lights around the garden for free lighting.
• Remember downstairs doors and windows are not the only accessible route for burglars – walls, fencing, extension roofs, drainpipes and wheelie bins will give burglars a step up.
When the property is vacant
• Ask your neighbour to park one of their cars in your driveway while you are away.
• If you get newspaper deliveries remember to cancel them.
• If you will be away for long periods of time ask a neighbor to cut your grass so that it doesn’t end up overgrown – you can offer to do the same when they are away.
Use light timers – they will give the impression that someone is in the property.
• Tune in your radio to a station that has the most talking and leave it on.
Notify your armed response company of your absence from your home.
• Do not leave keys under the mat or under plant pots – it is the first place prowlers will look.
Place security stickers on windows or doors – buy them or ask your security company to provide them.
Test your security systems regularly to ensure they are functioning correctly. 
• Fit additional small locks to windows and doors.
• Fit a door chain on front and back doors.
And finally, don’t get complacent. Many of our armed response calls happen where the alarm has not been activated!
*This article has been adapted from the Lowvelder.