This hijacking trend is taking over – what you can do to prevent it

 ·21 Jun 2023

Vehicle tracking group Tracker says that keyless access theft is again emerging as one of the most common forms of vehicle theft in South Africa, as the group’s latest Vehicle Crime Index (VCI) ticks higher.

The VCI indicated that Tracker’s client base experienced a 12% increase in vehicle theft in 2022 compared to 2021, and a 14% increase in hijackings for the same period.

Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape emerged as the three provinces reporting the most incidents – however, crime is increasing nationally, the group said.

This echoes data published in the official crime statistics, which showed that reported carjackings were up 8% in the 2022/23 full year at 22,742 cases (from 20,976 cases before).

Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operations Officer at Tracker, expressed concern as the numbers drawn from over 1.1 million Tracker-installed vehicles continue to climb yearly.

“For 2022, incidents have increased by 13% from the previous year. Gauteng has risen by more than 18% with the largest contributor being vehicle theft which is up 22%, and hijackings up 15%.

“These figures are indicative of the harsh reality South African motorists face when taking to the road, and as we get on with our normal lives post-Covid lockdowns, these figures will no doubt continue to climb,” he said.

Rising trend

Tracker noted that keyless access theft has yet again been reported as one of the most common forms of vehicle theft, which generally involves a team of criminals.

The group said that by using a relay amplifier, a criminal can amplify the constantly transmitted signal received from the vehicle’s key fob to a criminal counterpart’s relay transmitter.

The criminal counterpart can then gain access to the vehicle via the transmitter and drive away with it.

However, cars requiring a key are equally vulnerable, and the threat of hijackings at intersections is an everyday reality, the group noted.

Based on the VCI findings, Tracker provided the following list of tips to mitigate theft and/or hijackings:

For keyless entry:

  • Invest in a Faraday pouch lined with metallic material when storing your keyless entry key fob, as it blocks key fob signals and reduces the likelihood of criminals being able to amplify the signal in order to gain access to your vehicle. 

  • If your car with keyless entry function does not park behind a locked gate or in a garage, try parking another car requiring a key behind it, making it more difficult to steal the keyless entry vehicle.

  • Consider deactivating the keyless entry function by following the instructions from your motor manufacturer or your vehicle handbook. 

Additional hijacking avoidance advice includes:

  • Do not follow the same route to and from your destinations. Try to change this regularly so you don’t have a driving pattern.

  • Predetermine your route before getting into the vehicle so there’s no need to stop next to the road or ask for directions.

  • Find out which areas are high-risk crime and car hijacking areas and avoid these.

  • Keep your doors locked and windows rolled up, at all times.

  • Ensure that there is always a half to full car-length space between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can get away should you witness or experience an attempted hijacking.

  • When you are parking, check all your mirrors to gain awareness of your surroundings, especially before you exit your vehicle.

  • Avoid sitting in a parked car, especially if you’re reading or busy on your cell phone.

  • If you see someone that might require roadside assistance, rather call the police or metro police to assist them.

Vehicle theft

On top of hijacking – which takes place while victims are in or around their vehicles – there has also been a notable rise in cases of vehicle theft.

In these cases, vehicles are stolen while unattended – like when parked in a garage or while the victim is otherwise away from their vehicle.

According to the latest SAPS data, theft of vehicles is far more prevalent than carjackings, with 37,426 cases recorded in full year 2022/23 – and patterns haven’t changed much, with no increase in recorded cases compared to the prior period.

However, given the thousands of cases that are reported, drivers should also take the necessary precautions to protect against it.

Tracker offers the following advice:

Vehicle theft prevention

  • Double check that your windows are closed and that the doors are locked before walking away from your parked car.

  • Park in a well-lit area and if possible, an area with cameras monitoring the parking area and pedestrian activity around your vehicle.

  • Use a steering wheel lock and install an immobiliser. There is merit in having an additional system installed, even if your car has one built in. An audible alarm system is a further criminal deterrent.

  • Do not leave a spare key for your vehicle near your vehicle.

Read: All of South Africa is a hijacking hotspot

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