What you should know about ‘blue light’ hijackings in South Africa

A recent feature on Carte Blanche highlighted the frightening criminal tactic where suspects impersonate police officers and end up kidnapping and robbing unsuspecting drivers en route to a destination.

Linda Goodenough, community development manager for Fidelity ADT, says the majority of cases have been reported on the R59, so motorists on this highway need to be especially vigilant.

She says this type of incident could occur anywhere however, so staying safe all starts off with correct planning.

“You have to be prepared for your trip and be familiar with the route you want to travel. If you are relying on your cell phone to guide you where you want to go, you need to make sure that you have a battery charger in your car,” she said.

“It is wise to always have a plan B in case the GPS lets you down and decides to take you on the fastest route which is not necessarily the safest.”

Goodenough said that travel in the evening is obviously the most dangerous and it is key you use your rear-view mirror at all times to check what is happening around you.  She said that motorists need to be particularly careful when slowing down for a robot.

“Your highest risk is if you come to a dead standstill in a deserted area,” she said.

“If you are pulled over let someone know immediately that you are being pulled over. This could be a friend (send a pin drop), or if you have a tracking device it could be an Assist button or Find Me App.”

Goodenough said that on these situations it is often difficult to describe exactly where you are.

“Ideally put on your indicators to acknowledge that you know that they want to pull you off.  She added that motorists should try and slow down a bit, put your lights on bright and hazards to attract the attention of any passers-by and drive to the nearest well-lit area if at all possible.

“Most garages have cameras and you can phone 10111 en route who could potentially verify the vehicle registration number if it does not belong to SAPS.” She said if you have family members and children in the car, try to prepare them without scaring them, but talk to them frankly.

“You need to have an emergency plan and the children must understand that they must follow your instruction no matter what,” she said.

Goodenough says it is important to stress that these incidents are isolated and that most police officers are really just trying to do their job so it is still important to be courteous, respectful and obedient.

She provided the following tips for any hijacking situation:

  • Decide today, what is worth more, your life or your car – know that decision upfront;
  • Obey the hijacker and avoid eye contact;
  • Indicate with both hands up at chest level that you are willing to obey. Ensure your fingers are open so that they can see you haven’t got anything in your hands;
  • Don’t make any fast unannounced movements which could startle your hijackers;
  • When you receive the order to get out of the vehicles, start with seatbelt. Indicate that you want to undo your seatbelt, so the hijacker knows you have it on, because releasing the seatbelt can make a loud noise that can sound like a gun shot;
  • Tell them that you are going to pull up the handbrake;
  • Use your left hand to open the door and remember no jerking movements;
  • Get out right foot first, then left food, hands up all the time;
  • Alert them of pets or children or anybody else in the vehicle;
  • Be obedient;
  • Take in as much info as possible about the other vehicles and things that you can remember like tattoos, scars etc. things that stand out. Paint a picture in your head which you are going to remember;
  • This is critical information that you must give to authorities which will help them to put the perpetrators behind bars.

“Unfortunately as the economy continues to lag we could see more of these opportunistic type crimes,” said

The golden rule is avoid any dangerously flagged areas if at all possible and always have a plan for any eventuality. You may even wish to consider joining your local Community Policing Forum (CPF).

“Most CPF groups have information on current crime trends and problem areas and can be a great support in times of crisis. It may be worth considering,” she said.

Read: South Africa’s new alcohol and driving rules being considered by parliament

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What you should know about ‘blue light’ hijackings in South Africa