The South African Police Service has warned road users to be aware of several new tactics used by criminals to hijack vehicles, including mimicking traffic or police officials.
“Following a number of carjacking incidents that were recently reported at various clusters within the province (North West), police urge motorists to be cautious when traveling or stopping alongside the roads or when ordered to stop by other motorists as that could be hijacking suspects,” the police said in a statement.
“In some instances, unsuspecting motorists were stopped, robbed of their valuables and their vehicles hijacked by people who pretended to be traffic or police officials.”
In an incident in Sun City in August 2019, one victim was stopped by two men ‘asking for directions’. They then used a firearm to demand the car keys for a Nissan Navara.
In another incident, a driver stopped to change a flat tyre. An unidentified vehicle parked next to her and she was offered help by two men. After changing the tyre, the men assaulted her and drove off in a Volkswagen Polo.
In another incident, a man was threatened with a firearm and his Volkwagen Amarok hijacked on the Derby-Rustenburg road.
“It is alleged that the man stopped his vehicle alongside the road to relieve himself when two suspects who pretended to be asking for directions approached him. The suspects assaulted the victim, forced him into the back of his vehicle and drove off with him. The victim was allegedly dropped near Randfontein by the suspects who fled in his vehicle,” the SAPS said.
The National Hijacking Prevention Academy (NHPA) recently pointed out that it is increasingly difficult to steal locked motor vehicles due to new anti-theft technologies, which has led to a dramatic increase in vehicle hijackings.
“The increasing retrenchment and the high unemployment figures are also factors,” the NHPA said. “This is easy-earned money and the already well-established syndicates will buy these vehicles from the hijacker.”
The SAPS urged motorists to be vigilant and to apply the following safety tips as a precautionary measure:
- Never pick up or offer a lift to hitchhikers or strangers.
- Avoid stopping next to the road, except for an emergency.
- A well-maintained car is less likely to break down and leave you vulnerable. Check your tyres regularly.
- Plan your route and let someone know what your route is and when to expect you at your destination.
- Always check the rear view mirror to see if you are being followed.
- If you suspect that you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station or a busy public area.
- When approaching a red traffic light, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green especially at night.
- If possible, park in a central, well-lit place, preferably with guards on duty.
- When stopping behind another vehicle, leave half a vehicle length in front so you can make an emergency escape if necessary.
- Avoid driving through unfamiliar areas and late at night / early hours of the morning when the roads are quiet.
- Change routes on a regular basis.
“If possible, avoid driving in the dark. Hijackers may stage a minor accident, for e.g. If your vehicle is bumped from behind and you do not feel comfortable with the individual involved in the situation, indicate that he / she must follow you and drive to the nearest police station or any busy public area for help,” the SAPS said.
“Vehicle hijacking is an organised business, run according to business principles and based on thorough planning. Specific vehicles with specific characteristics are ordered beforehand and efforts have to be made to meet the requirements of such orders,” the NHPA said.