Smash-and-grab warning in South Africa – what you need to know

 ·4 May 2024

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has warned Gauteng motorists that criminals are taking advantage of non-operating traffic lights plaguing the roads to steal valuables from cars caught in the traffic.

Despite a recent break-in load-shedding, many areas within the City of Johannesburg are currently plagued with non-functioning traffic lights.

This has led to an accumulation of traffic at these intersections, causing severe congestion that can last for hours.

The resulting traffic delays have created a perfect opportunity for criminals to carry out smash-and-grab incidents, leaving many motorists feeling vulnerable and unsafe.

According to Gauteng law enforcement, thieves disguise themselves as beggars or vendors, scout vehicles in traffic for accessible personal belongings, and strike at the first opportunity.

Additionally, Security experts noted that traffic lights across the country remain a hotspot for hijackings and cautioned South African motorists to stay alert while filling up, note their surroundings and suspicious characters in the area, and keep their doors locked.

Areas flagged by law enforcement for these crimes include:

  • Alexandra
  • Beyers Naude Drive
  • Crown Interchange
  • Diepsloot
  • Johannesburg CBD
  • Malibongwe Drive
  • Midrand
  • Moroka (Soweto)
  • Orange Farm
  • Randburg

The recent spate of smash-and-grab incidents has followed another similar one that recently occurred on the M1 freeway in Johannesburg.

During the rush hour traffic on the M1-M2 freeway split, a group of armed robbers took advantage of the gridlock traffic and robbed several motorists at gunpoint.

The motorists had nowhere to go and were forced to surrender their valuables, including cell phones.

According to reports, the criminals behind this act are believed to be part of illegal mining operations in the area.

This incident has raised concerns about the safety of people who commute on the highways in Gauteng during peak-hour traffic.

In response to the incident, the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS), General Fannie Masemola, has ordered a maximum mobilisation of officers along Gauteng highways and other strategic locations during peak hours to avoid such incidents in the future.

The SAPS Highway Patrol, SAPS Airwing, and Gauteng Flying Squad units have also been assigned to conduct regular patrols on routes identified as high-risk.

This move by the SAPS aims to ensure the safety of commuters and prevent such incidents from happening again.

Speaking to eNCA, the spokesperson for the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), Xolani Fihla, said the increased police patrols on dangerous roads have yielded both positive and negative results.

While minor crimes have decreased, the JMPD has noticed an increase in serious vehicle-related crimes.

Fihla stated that smash-and-grab incidents have reduced, but crimes like robberies with aggravating circumstances have increased.

The JMPD advises motorists to remain vigilant on the road and report any crimes they witness to help the authorities catch the thieves.

Read: Warning for motorists filling up at petrol stations in South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter