New hijacking trends to look out for in South Africa

Recent data published by the South African Police Service (SAPS) shows that a vehicle is hijacked approximately every 25 minutes in South Africa.

Just between January and March 2022, there were 5,402 hijackings, most of which happened in the country’s main metros, according to South Africa’s crime statistics for Q4 2021/2022.

The use of key re-programmers and signal grabbers are still a common tactic used by criminals, and special equipment is used to create a long-range link between your key and the vehicle, said Netstar.

The vehicle tracking service said that criminals are developing new methods to target cars that use more technology, such as cars with start buttons.

This applies to some vehicles where you have the key on you, and you simply push the “start” button to drive the vehicle. These vehicles also unlock when you approach it without you having to press the unlock button, noted Netstar.

It added that many of the tactics used by criminals remain the same, and listed the following ways these types of vehicle-related crimes are committed.

  • “Police hijacking”/Blue light gang activity where criminals pose as law enforcement officers.
  • They remove your number plate, drive next to you and show you the plate; when you stop, they hijack you.
  • They physically bump you, and when you get out to inspect the damage, they hijack you.
  • They show you that you have a flat tyre; when you stop to check, they hijack you.

Netstar said that hijackers’ most preferred method of taking a person’s car or other valuable is keeping a person hostage at gunpoint until the tracking unit in the vehicle is found, and when the recovery company calls to find out if all is in order, they force the person to advise the company that all is okay.

The prime targets at the moment are primarily mid-level sedans and luxury SUVs, and the least likely targeted are cars such as Mini’s, Netstar said.

“Specific brands may be targeted; however, we find a vast variety of vehicles are hijacked.”

Security company Fidelity’s data shows hijackers most often targeted Toyota and Volkswagen vehicles, with targeted models including:

  • Toyota Hilux
  • Volkswagen Polo
  • Toyota Quantum
  • Nissan NP200

Security and police officials have warned of a disturbing increase in the number of car and truck hijackings in and around Gauteng, with an increasing number of incidents being perpetrated by fake police officials.

The trend sees groups of between two and five suspects who dress in traffic police uniforms and use a blue light mounted on the dashboard of their vehicle. Victims who believe they are dealing with bona fide police officials are held up against their will and dropped off in different areas around Gauteng.

Where hijackings are happening and how to prevent them

Netstar noted that hijackers use jammers in public places. Places such as malls, gyms and other high-traffic areas like school gatherings, sports events or church gatherings are hotspots for remote jammers. People are also vulnerable to hijackings when they have withdrawn cash or intend to go to an ATM.

Netstar offered the following tips to stay safe and prevent a possible hijacking:

  • Take note of similar vehicles: Hijackings are often well planned. The target is followed for days before the incident; therefore, take note if you see the same vehicles that keeps popping up on your daily travels.
  • Consider time: Always be aware and alert of your surroundings, especially when pulling into driveways and idle at traffic lights. We generally find that the hijacking peak occurs late in the evening when people may be returning home from work and are tired and relaxed.
  • Don’t just drive into your driveway: Be cognizant of what vehicles are around you, and if a vehicle has been taking the same turns as you, do not just drive into your driveway.
  • Keep moving: Try to have someone open a gate for you if it is not electric, and if it is, try to open it for the minimum time possible with the least stationary time in your vehicle.
  • Report: Always report any suspicious activity immediately to your local neighbourhood watch or security company.

Read: Warning over higher taxes to fund basic income grant in South Africa

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New hijacking trends to look out for in South Africa