While the South African Police Service’s latest crime statistics show that the number of hijackings in South Africa are dropping, data from vehicle tracking group, Tracker, shows that they are becoming increasingly violent.
The SAPS data shows that as many as 16,325 carjackings were reported between April 2017 and March 2018 – a decrease of 2.3% from the 16,717 cases in the previous period Statistically, this means that 45 cars are hijacked every day in South Africa.
According to Tracker’s records, over the past year an average of 18 customers a month experienced physical injury during a hijacking, through being shot, stabbed or assaulted.
One in ten of these incidents proved fatal, the group said.
“Criminals are also increasingly taking hostages during hijackings and Tracker has noted that on average that 27% of our activations result in a hostage being taken,” it said.
The group warned that motorists usually work on a set schedule, driving the same route daily, leaving and getting home at the same time, etc.
“Criminals know this and use the fact that we are becoming complacent,” said Ron Knott-Craig, executive operational services at Tracker South Africa.
“We need to stay alert and be vigilant, especially when your vehicle is at a standstill, for example at traffic lights. Avoid distractions while driving such as taking calls or using your mobile phone. Particularly in the evenings – Tracker data indicates that most reports for hijackings take place between 19h00 and 22h00.”
The group shared preventative tips to help motorists stay safe and avoid becoming a statistic:
- Be aware – “Don’t be an easy target. While driving, be vigilant about where you are and your surroundings, and check if you’re being followed. Even looking alert may be enough to dissuade potential criminals. If not, either head for a police station or drive to a busy area.”
- A little bit of planning – “Plan your route and let someone know what your route is and when to expect you at your destination. If possible, change your routes and your schedule on a regular basis. Also, be alert and on the lookout for suspicious persons or vehicles when leaving or arriving at your home or business.”
- No stopping – “Be wary of stopping on the side of the road, particularly if you are alone, in a quiet area or at night. Drive to a place of safety if possible. When approaching a red traffic light, especially at night or dark areas, slow down so that you only reach the traffic light when it turns green.”
- Lock it up – “Be careful of engaging with street vendors, because with your car’s window down you are more vulnerable to attack. Always keep your vehicle doors locked and windows closed. Also, avoid driving with your valuables in sight.”
- Testing, testing – “Regularly test your tracking device to make sure it’s working, including the assist button if your device has one. Your insurance company can refute a claim if the device is not working properly.”
“If you are hijacked, keep calm and co-operate. Avoid direct eye contact with the hijackers and don’t make sudden gestures that could antagonise the hijackers,” Tracker said.
“Report the incident to your tracking company and authorities as soon as possible.”
The group said that motorists should also try to remember as much detail as possible to provide a good description of the perpetrators to authorities, such as the clothing of the hijackers, location where the crime occurred, and any information that may assist them in identifying and apprehending the perpetrators.