The City of Ekurhuleni has issued an alert, warning motorists to be on the lookout for criminal activity at drive-thrus and petrol stations, which are becoming a hotspot for thieves.
The city said that there are many growing hotspots for crime, but its law enforcement agencies have reported a spike in robberies of motorists – particularly females – at fuelling stations.
It said motorists are becoming victims of crimes when sympathising with criminals disguised as distressed individuals, only to be robbed of their belongings.
While female motorists are more likely to sympathise with distressed individuals and end up robbed, male motorists are more likely to be targeted by extortion scams like the ‘school girl scam‘, which is also happening at fuel service stations.
Another growing crime trend is happening at drive-thru facilities.
The city said that criminals have recently adopted a new strategy of barricading a targeted victim’s car while in the queue to place their order and rob them of their personal belongings.
“By law, every private establishment reserves the right of entry, and those who enter do so at their own risk. It is for this reason law enforcers caution motorists to always be aware of their surroundings to avoid being victims of crime,” the city said.
Drive-thrus also leave motorists vulnerable to hijackings. Security companies previously warned that hijackers have adapted the “box in” strategy to target victims at drive-thrus.
These hijackings typically happen as patrons get to the front of the queue, and armed suspects from the vehicle in front get out and attempt to hijack the vehicle.
There are usually two cars involved, the vehicle behind the victim, blocks in the car when they try and reverse.
Security experts have offered the following advice to avoid becoming a victim of these crimes:
- Keep your valuables out of sight, or in the boot
- If you get approached by someone who appears in distress, alert the service station
- Lock your doors and do not engage with anyone that is not an employee of the service station
- Keep your bag in the boot – have your cash and card on hand for quick payment.
- Only use well-frequented drive-thrus and avoid any retail establishments which are dimly lit or isolated at night.
- Try and only order food at peak times when patronage is at its highest.
- Keep all your windows and doors closed while waiting for your order.
- If possible, don’t take children with you to the drive-thru, as they can be distracting.