This is how criminals target cars and homes in South Africa: Tracker

 ·8 Jul 2022

Criminals are always looking for an easy opportunity to take what isn’t theirs. One of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim is to think like a criminal and be aware of what they are looking for, says security group Tracker.

“The South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics for the fourth quarter of 2021-2022 noted an increase in many crime categories, including burglary at residential premises, carjacking, theft out of or from motor vehicle, and other general theft.

“Employ the mindset of a thief and keep the following precautions in mind to deter criminals from taking advantage and seizing those things dear to you.”

The group provided further details around some of the ways criminals pick their targets in South Africa right now.

At home

Isolated and empty homes and those with higher walls or surrounded by bushes are greater targets because there is less chance of a thief being seen and possibly caught while committing a crime, Tracker said.

“However, we are living in a country marred by violent crime and home invasions, where any house may be fair game,” it said.

“Therefore, think like a thief and critically evaluate your home security to identify gaps. Then boost it to the greatest level you can afford. That might mean installing burglar bars or security gates at a minimum, or if you have the budget, a home security system with an alarm including inside and outside sensors, an electric fence and IP cameras.

“If possible, enlist the help of a security company. Make sure that the systems installed are in good working order.”

Tracker advised surveying your garden and home for things that might be setting you up as a target.

For example, an overgrown bush offering a perfect hiding spot; or a large tree with overhanging branches that could be used to scale walls. Tools or ladders left lying in the garden can be used to break into the house.

“Your Pikitup wheelie bin can be used as a climbing aid or to transport stolen items. Large dog doors, and open windows and doors, even those on an upper floor, offer easy access.

“The boxes of your extravagant purchases left outside with your rubbish for everyone to see lets a thief know exactly what there is to steal. An overflowing mailbox or a bin that is not placed out on collection day could indicate that no one is home.”

The group also advised homeowners to check their gardens for ‘easy pickings’ including garden furniture, ornaments, or a free-standing braai. A gate motor is also quite valuable and easily taken if it isn’t protected by a locked anti-theft cage, it said.


Tracker noted that homes with visible deterrents are also less likely to be targeted.

“Think about the things that you can add to your home as deterrents, such as outside and motion sensor lighting, or internal lights set on timers to go on and off at various intervals.

“Keep curtains drawn on any window that can be seen from the street to prevent potential thieves from seeing what you have in your house or whether the room is occupied. A dog can sometimes be a deterrent – the general sentiment is that small dogs bark, drawing attention, and large dogs bite.”

The group also urged South Africans to be aware of their surroundings.

“Be wary of people at your gate or door. Look out for suspicious activity in the street or litter that can be used as markers. Get to know your neighbours.

“You’ll be able to watch out for one another and you will immediately know when something out of the ordinary occurs at a neighbouring home or strangers are lurking. Join your community WhatsApp or Telegram group or your neighbourhood watch group – these have been proven to thwart criminal activity.”


Tracker noted smash and grab criminals will look for anything valuable that’s easy to pick up – for example, a cell phone or a laptop.

“In the car, to avoid smash and grabs, valuables are better kept in the boot or under the seats. If these items will have to stay in the car when you reach your destination, it is best to stow them away before you get there, in case someone is watching you when you arrive.

“While driving, always keep the car doors locked and the windows closed. Remain attentive and minimise distractions from gadgets, music, or other people in the car. A criminal is relying on any opportunity and waiting for you to be distracted, and your gadgets could be what they’re after.”

The group noted that criminals can also target vehicles based on something as simple as how they stop at a traffic light.

“Observe your behaviour through the eyes of a criminal. Consider whether you could be boxed in at a robot because you stop too close to the car in front of you, or outside your home as you wait for the gate to open.

“Or whether you are an easy or attractive target to follow. Also, could your phone be easily snatched because you’re sitting in your car with the window down and your phone in your hand. Act in a way that you would if you know you are being watched because you are probably being watched.”

Read: South Africa to get new ‘in-road’ lights for drivers – what you should know

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