By Essie Bester
Car hijackings are on the increase all over South Africa and with it comes the unpleasant reality that you and I could also become part of the statistics of this frequently violent crime.
As many as 23 car hijackings are reported every day
According to the South African Police Service’s latest statistics 16 325 car hijackings are reported annually. Statistics further show that a car is hijacked every 32 minutes. Most of these incidents (23 per day) occur in Gauteng.
The statistics of the vehicle security firm Tracker show that Johannesburg leads the field when it comes to dangerous car hijackings; eThekwini is second, with Ekurhuleni in the third place.
Ron Knott-Craig, CEO of Tracker, says most car hijackings occur on Fridays between 11:00 and 13:00, and then again between 20:00 and 23:00.
Nowadays hijacking syndicates are well orchestrated undertakings that employ individuals who are urged to supply certain models on demand. The vehicle security firm Ctrack says the five most hijacked models in South Africa are the VW Polo, Toyota Hilux and other Toyota models, Ford Ranger, BMW X5 and Chevrolet Spark. The data further shows that more than 67% or hijacked vehicles are less than 10 years old. Older models are sometimes hijacked for parts.
Certain types of hijacking are on the rise
According to Tracker a hostage is taken in approximately 29% of hijackings, while the so-called blue-light robberies ─ where criminals pretend to be law enforcers in order to carry out hijackings ─ are also increasing.
Where and how do hijackers act?
In public places hijackers will follow their victim at a distance, move closer a bit later and then strike at a traffic light. They often use a strategy where they bump into their victim’s car from behind to make him or her think it was an accident. When the victim then gets out of his car, the hijacking is carried out. Driveways are also excellent targets for hijackers where they usually box in a victim by parking right behind his or her car before the access gate has opened all the way.
What can motorists do to protect themselves against this?
According to Stop Crime SA you should be on the lookout for car hijackers masquerading as beggars, street vendors or pamphlet distributors. Car hijackers will try any trick to get you out of your car. Keep your windows closed and your doors locked. Do not be deceived by a feigned injury or any other clever trick.
- Always plan your route and let somebody know what route you will be using and when you may be expected.
- Regularly watch the rear-view mirror to make sure that you are not being followed. If you suspect that you are, drive slower to see if the car passes you. Put on your flicker and see if the other car does the same. Drive to the nearest police station if necessary.
- If somebody bumps into you from behind and you feel uncomfortable with the situation, do not get out. Drive to the nearest police station.
- When you reduce speed to stop at a crossing, keep an eye open for suspicious people just hanging around.
- Do not in any circumstances pick up hitchhikers or strangers.
- When approaching a red traffic light, reduce speed in such a way that you reach the light only when it turns green.
- When you stop behind another vehicle, leave half a car length clear in front of your vehicle so that you can escape in an emergency.
- If possible, park in a central well-lighted area, preferably with security guards.
- Regularly change your routes and the times you drive.
- Be alert when you approach your home and keep an eye open for parked cars or people hanging around.
- Make sure your driveway is well lighted. Remove all shrubs that could provide cover.
- If you have an electric gate, wait in the street until the gate has opened all the way before you turn into your driveway.
- If you have to open your gate by hand, stop right in front of the gate. Do not switch off the ignition. Leave the key in the ignition, get out and close the car door behind you. Then open the gate and immediately close the door behind you.
- Do you have small children with you? Take the car key with you as a “negotiation item” when you get out to open the gate. The hijackers want your car, and you want your children.
- Let older children get out of the vehicle with you to open the gate. In this way they will not be in the vehicle in the event of an attack.
And if it does happen?
According to experts the first and golden rule is not to oppose the hijackers, who will probably more nervous than you. It is important to show them that you are not a threat to them. If you are instructed to get out of the car, use the hand closest to the belt (left hand) to release it. Do not make any quick movements. Avoid eye contact, obey instructions by the hijacker and do not try to be a hero ─ remember, your life is worth more than the car.