Hijackings in South Africa at record high – as trust in police sinks to new low

 ·17 Oct 2022

Hijackings in South Africa are at an all-time high, with the most recent quarterly crime stats and the latest available annual stats marking the highest count for the crime on record.

The latest crime statistics published by the South African Police Service (SAPS) show that 5,866 hijackings were reported across the country between April and June 2022 – a 14% increase from the 5,146 hijackings reported over the same period in 2021.

This year-on-year increase in hijacking reports means that a car is estimated to be stolen every 22 minutes in South Africa.

This marks the worst first quarter for carjackings over the last few years and sets the country up for another record year of hijackings.

Adding up the reported carjackings from every quarter in the 2021/22 financial year shows that 20,976 cars were stolen between April 2021 and March 2022 – the highest over the last decade, equivalent to 57 cars being stolen every day, or one car every 25 minutes over the whole year.

Losing trust

Dr Steven Gordon from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) – a think tank that surveys South Africa’s perceptions – said that hijackings and other crimes in the country are at their worst levels.

Gordon said that on top of high crime statistics, one of the main issues that give South Africans even more anxiety when going about their day is the fact that if they were to be hijacked, justice would not be served.

Out of 3,200 interviews conducted countrywide compiled in the South African Social Attitudes Survey only 27% of respondents said that they actually trust the South African Police Services.
40% said it was pointless to hand over criminal suspects because it is perceived that it won’t be taken to justice, said Gordon.

On a state level, the perception of how the government is handling crime is low, with only 24% saying that they are happy with how it is being handled.

This lack of trust in the police is echoed by Stats SA’s Victims of Crime Survey, which shows that a large number of crimes in the country go unreported – including carjackings. The latest survey shows that approximately 134,000 individuals experienced hijacking in 2021/2022, up from 64,000 the year prior.

However, only 62.9% of these crimes were reported to the SAPS.

The graph below shows the general decline in confidence in the police since 1998:

Worst areas

Unsurprisingly, Gauteng has the highest number of carjackings compared to the rest of the provinces, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape. Mpumalanga is the only province where hijackings actually decreased in the latest stats.

Taking into account the top 10 police stations that reported the most carjacking within the same period, six are in Gauteng; however, the province doesn’t sit at the top of the list.

The Western Cape held the first three positions, with Nyanga, Philippi East, and Harare police stations recording the most reported hijackings in the country.

On the other hand, Rabie Ridge police station in Gauteng posted the highest year-on-year increase in reported hijackings between April and June 2022, showing an increase of 104.8%.

Targeted vehicles

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

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

The data shows white vehicles were disproportionately targeted (48.9%). This was also the case for silver-grey vehicles (18.9%).

Fidelity also noted that white or silver-grey vehicles are the most hijacked in the country.

White is by some margin (nearly half of all vehicles) the most popular vehicle colour in South Africa, followed by silver and grey.

However, Fidelity stressed that, while criminals will likely prefer a neutral colour, it’s the make and model they are more interested in.

Safety tips

Fidelity has partnered with the National Hijack Prevention Academy to offer drivers the following safety hints and tips:

If you suspect you are being followed, put your indicator on and slow down at least two to three houses before your home. If you are being followed, you will force the vehicle behind you to pass, and this could cause the criminals to lose interest.

  • If you need to stop in your driveway to manually open the gate, always leave the key in the ignition and the motor running unless you have a child in the car. Only then should you take the key with you as you open the gate. The key is a valuable negotiating tool – they want your car, and you want your child.
  • Always make sure you can see the car’s back wheels in front of you when you stop in traffic. This gives you enough room to manoeuvre and escape.
  • If you stay in a secure complex with security guards, do not be fooled into thinking you are safe. You can easily be followed into your complex, so always remain vigilant. Research shows that most people relax the closer they get to home, often when they are most vulnerable.

Other tips provided by the group include:

  • Do not stop at a deserted spot or area to talk on your phone or even relieve yourself;
  • Always keep your windows closed;
  • If someone tries to force you out of the road, don’t panic but just blow your horn constantly to draw attention;
  • Do not stop for hitchhikers, even if it is a female hiker with a crying baby.

Read: The types of cars targeted by criminals in South Africa – and the crime hotspots

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