Due to sophisticated and organised criminal syndicates, incident rates of theft and hijacking have reached alarmingly high levels.
This is according to Cartrack SA CEO, Harry Louw, who said that while it was difficult to identify specific areas as high-risk, there are a number of standout hijacking trends from Cartrack’s data.
Cartrack has seen a significant increase in subscribers in recent years – reporting a 28% rise in subscriber growth for the year ended February 2019.
The group currently has over 975,000 subscribers globally, with around 700,000 subscribers locally.
Louw said that it generally takes under an hour for a vehicle to be recovered by Cartrack.
“Our experience shows that because (more) sophisticated vehicles are very difficult to steal, these vehicles remain hijack targets,” said Louw.
“Public parking areas are considered to be high-risk areas – this includes shopping centres, hospitals, gyms, places of worship and major sporting or entertainment events where secure parking areas often overflow.”
Other trends to be aware of include criminals posing as law enforcement officers and stopping vehicles, said Louw.
“Beware of a vehicle bumping you from behind – this could be a mock vehicle collision aimed at getting you to stop and get out.
“Thieves can also try and get you to stop and get out of your vehicle by driving next to you and pointing towards a wheel, indicating that your tyre is damaged. Only stop to check this at a place of safety.”
Louw said that Cartrack has also seen minibus-taxi thefts continue ‘unabated’.
“One trick that some thieves use is for the hijackers to pose as passengers and wait in the vehicle until the last passengers disembark, and to then hold up the driver and hijack the vehicle,” he said.
Tips to avoid becoming a statistic
Louw said that there are several steps you can take to avoid becoming another hijacking statistic, including:
- Make sure your car is well maintained
If your car is not well maintained and you encounter problems with it while in public, you will be far more vulnerable to an attack. It is therefore important to service your car regularly and to check your oil, water and tyres on at least a monthly basis.
- Plan your route beforehand
Driving around without an idea of where you’re headed is a recipe for disaster, as you will quickly be singled out as a criminal target.
Make sure that you always have your wits about you by planning your route beforehand and by letting somebody know what time they can expect you at your destination. When approaching a red traffic light, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green.
Also, try to change your schedule and routes (if possible) on a regular basis, as this will make it harder for criminals to track your daily patterns.
- Be prepared
By being prepared when you arrive at your car, you will give criminals less time to attack you. As such, always have your keys ready (but not visible), only unlock your car when you’re near it, and check that no one is in the back seat before getting in.
Also, don’t use your cell phone when walking to your car, as this will distract you and make you an easier target.
- Be aware on your journey
Hijackers will target motorists who are unaware that they are being targeted. In order to prevent this, it is critical to have your wits about you – always be aware of any potential threat.
This includes regularly checking your rear-view mirror to see if you are being followed, driving to your nearest police station if you suspect that you are being followed and avoiding distractions while driving such as using your cell phone.
Avoid driving with your windows open, keep the doors locked and put all valuables out of sight.
- Be aware when arriving home
Many motorists tend to relax when they are arriving home and thus fall prey to criminals.
As such, you should always be on the lookout for suspicious, unfamiliar people who are loitering around your property, reverse into your driveway when parking and make sure your driveway is well lit and clear of shrubbery.
- Don’t hold onto valuables
The most important thing to remember if you are in the distressing event of a hijacking situation is that your life is more important than any other valuable possession.
Rather focus on what you can do to prevent yourself and your loved ones from coming to harm during this situation.
If you are approached by a hijacker, do not try to fight back – keep your hands visible at all times, and if requested, calmly hand over any valuables.