The rainy season is burglary season

Written by Ahmad Muktar (January, 2019)

The rainy season in Kaduna usually starts in April and last for about six months, with peak periods between the months of August and September. The season brings several benefits including being a source of fresh water for domestic uses; crop cultivation, irrigation and for industrial purposes. The season also provides job opportunities for many who are under- or unemployed youth and women especially those hired as labourers by large scale farmers. Rarely discussed, however, is the spike in property crime (i.e. burglary) during the rainy season, often referred to as the ‘crime season’ by residents of Unguwan Dosa neighbourhood of Kaduna. As this blog illustrates, rain is a nuisance for local business on two levels: Fewer customers, and risks of getting burgled. It can be excellent for alternative livelihood strategies, however, that benefit from the disruption to local street life.

On some days during rainy season, heavy rainfall can last for several hours. As residents we interviewed noted, movement becomes restricted and people are careful to avoid being soaked by rain or being hit by objects when it is windy. Hence, it is common for people to rush back home, including business owners, to avoid being held out for long hours by the rain. This lack of activity around businesses and shops provides the perfect “rational” opportunity (Clarke and Cornish, 1985) for motivated offenders to commit property crime offences with less risk of being caught. The rain facilitates property crime because it serves as a sound-proof mechanism. For example, if burglars attempt to remove safety beams from windows, roofing sheets or window glass cover from targeted homes or shops, the levels of “eyes and ears” on the street have dissipated, so burglaries can be conducted without attracting too much attention. As recounted by residents we interviewed, the sound from rain drops often prevents people from hearing any suspicious noise that may suggest an act of burglary is taking place.

The sound from the heavy rainfall against the roofs of homes in any neighbourhood will depend on both physical characteristics and materials used during construction. Unguwan Dosa is a high density residential neighbourhood with the built-up area consisting of mainly paved surfaces with no visible greenery. The majority of the buildings in Unguwan Dosa, if not all, have aluminium roofing. Considering that the bearable decibel levels of noise for the human ear ranges from 55dB to 60dB under normal circumstances, it is noteworthy that the London Building Bulletin 93 (2004) describes the level of noise generated from breaking metallic surfaces, glass, or concrete as reaching up to 70dB. The scenario of heavy rainfall therefore provides the opportune context within which crime thrives in Unguwan Dosa, when levels of noise impede most residents’ ability to pay attention.

Our interviewees asserted that during each rainy season, there are frequent occurrences of burglary and theft in Unguwan Dosa neighbourhood. Alhaji Sani Garba, a resident of Unguwan Dosa, recalled how a shop in the neighbourhood was burgled a day before our interview with him, saying that:

 “…The burglars were able to achieve this because it rained heavily throughout the night so loud that it prevented us from hearing any sound as they were carrying out their act. From what we saw, they were able to gain entrance through the roof. It is a very serious issue in this area and this is not the first time that burglary took place during rainfall.”

Mal. Yahya Mahmud Gumel, another resident of the neighbourhood discussing the same incident added that:

“I received the news this morning and I went there to confirm the situation for myself. I saw that they removed the roofing sheets to gain access through the roof of the shop. This is not the first time – we have had similar incidents in the past.”

Another resident of Unguwan Dosa who wants to remain anonymous revealed two other incidents that occurred a week earlier. The first was a motor bike that was stolen in the night after a day of rains. The other incident, which he considered to be more serious, involved a business owner who was sitting alone in her saloon shop and several gang members known as ‘En shara’. The incident took place in the afternoon during rainfall. He explained that:

“I think she was the only one in the shop when four ‘En shara’ gang members emerged and demanded that she either give her phone to them or they would stab her.”

Based on our interviews with residents of Unguwan Dosa, and a focus group interview with neighbourhood vigilante organizations in Malali/Badarawa, it is clear that rainfall creates a situational opportunity that burglars exploit to perpetrate criminal activities.  As we start to analyse the data from our research in Unguwan Dosa, we are starting to see the following patterns: rainfall is both expected but erratic during rainy season. It would take time, coordination, and knowledge of local businesses for offenders to go out during rainfall to another neighbourhood other than where they live or work, so we hypothesise that perpetrators of these burglary acts are likely to be from (or work within) the same areas where incident take place. Residents and business owners must clearly be vigilant during rainfall especially in areas with records of burglary during rainy season, but it is also clear that further research is needed to develop a contextual understanding of how rainfall creates situational opportunities enabling the perpetration of burglary act, and by whom.

Mitigating crime through alternative sources of income and side hustle

Written by Abdullahi Babagana (January, 2019)

Since the month of August, 2018, the research team at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (ABU) has been conducting interviews in two towns in Kaduna, Badarawa Kwaru and Malali. The aim was to situate the topic of neighbourhood crime within the wider dynamics of income generation and everyday struggles amongst communities. Babagana Abdullahi, one of the field researchers, reflects on the alternative sources of income or “side hustles” described by a selection of interlocutors.

In many African cities, putting various alternative sources of income has become routine. Developing survival mechanisms becomes an important strategy, especially for low income communities working in the informal sector. In our research, we have found many of the inhabitants of Badarawa Kwaru and Malali engaging in more than one business to survive. These alternative businesses, or what is sometimes referred to locally as a “side hustle”, are the building blocks of people’s livelihoods. While it may seem obvious to always have a contingency plan especially when it comes to making a living and surviving, we want to better understand the dynamics of how this works out in places like Badarawa Kwaru and Malali.

Many of our interlocutors complained about the present-day hardships, which has made depending on all sorts of alternative sources of income a vital back-up plan. Lukman Mustapha of Malali community, a teacher in an Islamic school, spends the time when he is not teaching in a metal work shop, because, there are times when his metal work business bails him out financially when his teaching job cannot cover his living costs. For Lukman, the metal work job is a backup as well as a side hustle. The backup is an alternative which is part of his major income. It is distinct and organized as much as his major source of income. The side hustle is not a distinct income generator as it can change at any time. Though, it is a source of income which is only used to fill little expenditure gaps. Both the backup and side hustle do not only bring in additional income but also allows flexibility to work full time regular job. He explains:

“Recently, my teaching job cannot cater for all my needs, so I spend time here in this metal workshop to make money to top up. Though, both the shop and the school are equally important, because we try as much as possible to engage little boys as apprentices in the shop to prevent them from going around picking items on the street, because they sometimes do away with valuable items in the process.”

Lukman trains these pre-teens, who are between the ages of 9 and 16 years, in the metal shop so he can keep them in line and out of trouble and petty street theft, but he also relies on them to bring him valuable metal scraps (if they bring any, though not his major source of metal) from their street waste collection. Side hustle sometimes, but not always, depends on raw materials often provided by these youths and has to be extra careful not to buy stolen materials in some cases.

Image: Abdullahi Babagana (left) is standing with Lukman Mustapha (right). Lukman is mainly a teacher but he also trades valuable metal scraps derived from used utensils, buckets and food cans at his workshop as part of his side hustling activities

Unlike Lukman who found side hustle locally, other interlocutors spoke of their willingness to travel far beyond their neighbourhood to find additional sources of income. For Ibrahim Mohammed Yanda from Badarawa Kwaru, his side hustle is not tied to location. He explained:

“I go anywhere my work takes me. I also go as far as Abuja and Zaria. When there is no work to do since our work is based on demand, I do any other thing that will fetch me clean money. This is better than being idle as it can lead to temptation as we see boys doing in this community.”

For Ibrahim, these other sources of income are side hustles. In the past, people like Ibrahim working in a particular trade such as masonry would have a ‘lead-livelihood’, or main source of income, with perhaps a set of extra income activities on the side, just in case. Ibrahim sees the side hustle not just as a means of survival and meeting needs, but also as a way of mitigating or even preventing stealing. Today, it is difficult to differentiate between these different sources of income, and know which one is the ‘lead’ source of livelihood versus the extra bid on the side. Increasingly, the income from the side hustle tends to cater for needs better than the lead-livelihood. Additionally, Ibrahim explains that, during the Harmattan period (i.e. dry season that lasts between the end of November and mid-March), they get a lot of contracts; as this is the time when many like building their houses. Therefore, all sources of income are equally important, and equally insecure.

In addition to topping up one’s source of income due to economic instability, relying on alternative sources of income and side hustles has also become a key part of how people manage risks in their everyday life. Usman Sanusi who is a satellite dish installer in Ungwan Dosa works as a contract staff in an insurance company. He lamented that:

“I am engaged in a Quarry business and as a transporter of sharp sand for construction, but decided to get a job since I am educated. The reason for this, is to prevent what happened to my brother who has a textile shop. His shop was burgled and till date, the business crumbled as a result. I decided to seek other sources so as not to be a victim of such circumstance”.

Alternatives sources of income and side hustles have therefore become a way of life: survival instincts that also become crucial strategies for mitigating a variety of risks – economic unpredictability and crime most notably.