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 Post subject: Housebreaking and theft in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 4:05 am 
Housebreaking and theft in Sri Lanka

The data collected by the police from all parts of the country indicate a rising trend in crimes dubbed ‘housebreaking and theft’. Poverty, armed gang robbers, armed deserters and drug addicts have contributed to an increase in this type of crime, says Senior Superintendent of Police Rienzie Perera, explaining that some young men who have found girl-friends newly and do not have the money to take them out for a meal or a film would also resort to this type of crime.

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By Kumudini Hettiarachchi
@ ST / 17SEP2006


It was a Sunday like any other for this middle-class family. A relaxed morning fading into a hectic evening, because the children were due to get back to school the next day after a short vacation, in a household in the suburbs of Colombo.

The couple left around 7.30 in the night with their two young children to get a few last-minute errands done, leaving the wife’s elderly mother alone at home. They returned around 9.30, had dinner and watched television. While the others went to bed, the wife sat down to sort through her handbag because she would have to pay many bills, school fees the next day. By the time she went to bed it was 2 O’clock Monday morning.

The husband was the first to wake up the next day – seeing the corridor upstairs with the early morning sunlight streaming in he assumed that his mother-in-law had opened that door at the top of the outside staircase to pick flowers for her morning offering and forgotten to close it.

He realized something was amiss only when he looked into his wallet. The night before he had Rs. 850 but now nothing.

The frantic search began. “All the money in the house was gone, as was all the jewellery,” says the wife hardly able to hold back the tears.


The money in her husband’s wallet, in her purse, the cash she had put-by over the months to buy a few books for her little ones at the International Book Fair this week, the money for the temple, the school fees and also some money taken out from the bank for house repairs. Every single piece of jewellery, the necklace presented by her husband, other items collected over the years with money that had not come easily, gifts such as tiny pendants, and even the sure of their daughter, of much more sentimental value than pricey. All gone, the value could be more than Rs. 200,000. They do not know.

Robbed in their own home, while they slept oblivious of the intrusion. “We think the robbers came through the gate which we leave unlocked because this is a residential area and the neighbours are good, entered our home while we were out but my mother was in the house, through the kitchen door and hid somewhere until we went to sleep,” says the wife, explaining that the robbers had done a systematic search of all the almirahs.

“The most scary part is that they would have been watching me while I was sorting through my purse,” she says in horror.

In the heart of Colombo, people living in another residential area leave home for a function, locking the doors and the gate. When they return three hours later, they see like in a slow-motion movie their house door broken open with a crow-bar. In shock, they stumble into their home and find all the room doors and the almirah doors broken open. The costume jewellery had been left behind, but the gold was gone.

The data collected by the police from all parts of the country indicate a rising trend in crimes dubbed ‘housebreaking and theft’.

Poverty, armed gang robbers, armed deserters and drug addicts have contributed to an increase in this type of crime, says Senior Superintendent of Police Rienzie Perera, explaining that some young men who have found girl-friends newly and do not have the money to take them out for a meal or a film would also resort to this type of crime.

Every police station has a ‘crime clock’ and a ‘crime chart’ with each category of crime being given a colour code. “The clock is divided into 24 hours in graphic form and the chart is based on areas coming under the respective police station. The moment a crime is reported, the relevant police officers have to mark the time of the crime on the clock and the area on the chart. One glance at the clock and the chart would indicate the crime-high areas and the time that such crimes take place,” says SSP Perera, the Director of the Police-Public Relations Bureau. “Thus crime management with the available resources could be spot on, with ‘weak’ areas being targeted for either more day or night patrols depending on the need.”

The police also should co-opt the public, according to SSP Perera who cites the case of Justices of the Peace (JPs) in Mirigama recently setting up an association. “The association is working closely with the police there and I was informed that some of the members went on night patrols with the police last Tuesday,” he says.

Community Policing and the Triple Peace Concept work very well if both the police and the public are interested in keeping their areas crime-free, he stresses, adding that the public should make maximum use of the police.



Dos and don’ts to the public

Here are a few tips from SSP Rienzie Perera to the public on how to ensure the safety of one’s home.

= Take a look around your home.

= If your house is set individually with a wall or a fence around it, try and rear at least two dogs. The dogs could either be good breeds or ‘local’ ones depending on your choice and resources. If they are big dogs, one should be kept chained on a long leash and the other loose so that even if one is poisoned the other will give the alert to your neighbours that something is wrong. If they are small dogs like Pomeranians, because they are generally scared of intruders, they should be kept inside the house as they would keep barking, without getting near strangers.

= All windows, whether the house is single or double storey, should be fortified with grills, either with the bar-type or patterned.

= Try to instal a grill door before the front door, and keep that padlocked always, so that if anyone comes to the door, you speak through the grill door.

= If you are living in a flat, apartment or your front door opens onto the road, be sure to fix a viewer, so that you can look through it before opening the door. If you look through a window to see who is at the door, have a curtain or tint on it, through which you can see the outside but those outside cannot see in.

= If a door key gets lost, don’t cut a new one. Change the locks immediately.

= Don’t ever “hide” the key in a flower pot or under the mat for another member of the household to have access, because in the same way an intruder could get hold of it. If you have only one key, get new keys cut for all the family members who may need them.

= Don’t entertain any stranger attempting to sell goods or collecting donations, however pathetic the story. Don’t open the door to them.

= If you are leaving the house unattended for a few days, ensure that there is a letter box for the letters and a place for the newspaper or the milk. Such things lying unattended for days are clear clues to robbers or even the newspaper boy or the milkman.

= Be good with your neighbours – because then they will keep an eye on your house. And be a good neighbour yourself. If a stranger comes to your neighbourhood, question him/her which will give a strong signal that your neighbourhood is secure.


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