11 tactics criminals use to hijack vehicles in South Africa

The South African Police Service (SAPS) this week presented the latest crime statistics for the country over the last year.

The presentation offered insights into the various crime categories in South Africa, and how they have increased or decreased between 2018 and 2019 – including a look into the modus operandi of some of the bigger crimes.

This includes the many methods used by criminals to overpower and distract victims to hijack cars and other vehicles, as recorded in the reported cases.

Following a low-point in 2011/2012, the data shows that carjacking (9,417 reported incidents) has steadily increased across the country, with 16,026 reported incidents over the 2018/2019 reporting period.

Most of these incidents occur in Gauteng (7,776), followed by KZN (2,764) and the Western Cape (2,294).

Despite the high rate of hijacking across Gauteng, the report shows that Nyanga in the Western Cape had the most reported incidents (273) compared to any other precinct.

Most cases of carjacking occur within townships, the SAPS said (15,098 cases), with inner-city hijackings coming a distant second (1,534 cases). This is followed by remote areas (445), national highways (110) and suburbs (97).

When perpetrating these crimes, by far a hijackers weapon of choice is a gun or firearm, followed by the use of a blunt weapon, or their bare hands.

This is also reflected in the modus operandi – where in most cases hijackers get control of victims and steal their vehicles through the pointing and threatening of guns.

Almost all cases of hijacking, the victims are subjected to threats and assault, where weapons are used to control victims, and they are exposed to things like grabbing, shooting, striking, stabbing, slapping and verbal assaults. The police also recorded four cases where victims were poisoned.

The SAPS also highlighted other methods that criminals use to perpetrate the crime. These include:

  1. Knocking down on the vehicle’s window or other part of the vehicle
  2. Forcing victims off the road using another vehicle
  3. Hijacking victim in a fake ‘stop and go’ set-up
  4. Forcing victims to stop using another vehicle
  5. Throwing an object onto the road
  6. Tampering with a vehicle’s mechanical components
  7. Posing as a beggar, hawker or window cleaner
  8. Asking for assistance, or hitch-hiking
  9. Blocking the road using other objects
  10. Offering help to victims
  11. Pretending to be a passenger (posing for pick-up)

These methods are over-and-above other methods that have been highlighted by authorities recently.

Speaking on a rising number of reported hijackings in the North West, the SAPS warned motorists of cases where victims were hijacked by criminals posing as police officers. This is known as the blue light method of hijacking.

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.

Read: These are the most hijacked cars in South Africa

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11 tactics criminals use to hijack vehicles in South Africa