Winter crime warning for South Africa

 ·6 Jul 2024

Winter time gives criminals some additional tools to take advantage of unsuspecting victims with insurers warning South Africans to be extra vigilant when the cold creeps in.

This is due to longer nights, giving criminals an extra few hours of darkness for their activities, while other conditions in the cold—like misty windows—make it more difficult for victims to see what’s coming.

According to MiWay’s Siyakha Masiye, residents should be vigilant, particularly as criminals are targeting motorists in residential areas and in locations near fuel stations and shopping malls.

According to Tracker’s Vehicle Crime Index (VCI), which aggregates information from the company’s more than 1.1 million subscribers, hijackings still dominate at a national level, accounting for 55% of all national vehicle crime incidents.

Over recent months, there have been several reports of robberies at convenience stores, cash-in-transit heists, and ATM bombings, as well as patrons coming under attack – either hijacked, robbed or even killed at fuel stations countrywide.

“Consumers are cautioned to remain vigilant, particularly during early sunsets where the darkness creates opportunities for criminals targeting consumer valuables in residential areas, near shopping malls, and at fuel stations, meaning it is imperative for everyone to stay alert and take proactive safety measures,” the group said.

Masiye added that cold weather also makes for misted windscreens, which can impair the visibility of your surroundings.

“Criminals often take advantage of darkness or bad weather to commit crimes such as carjackings, and robberies. And if you are walking in the dark, muggings are a higher risk. The colder weather can also make people less alert and more eager to get home quickly, becoming an easy target for criminals,” Masiye said.

MiWay noted the following safety tips to help South African motorists stay safe this winter:

  • Plan ahead and leave before sunsets: To avoid travelling in the dark, plan your trips in advance and aim to leave early, whether heading to and from the office, shops or visiting friends and family.

  • Fuel up wisely: When refuelling, especially at night, choose well-lit petrol stations and avoid isolated ones. Rather refill at petrol stations in the morning or during the day.

  • Valuables out of sight: Make sure you keep valuables out of sight, whether in pockets, or handbags. This also includes any hang bags or laptop bags on passenger seats or even on back seats. Rather place your valuables in your car boot.

  • Switch on car lights: With so many modern cars being introduced so often in the market, their lights are also evolving. Whether you are driving a modern car or an older model, make sure your car lights are turned on as soon as it gets dark.

Change in business hours

While longer periods of darkness can aid criminals in their attackers, data shows that criminal activity has shifted, with criminals now operating more frequently earlier in the day.

Naked Insurance recently told BusinessTech that hijackers in particular seemed to be operating earlier in the day compared to historical data.

“According to our data, hijackings account for 54% of vehicle thefts between 05h00 and 12h00, 47% from 12h00 to 21h00, and 25% between 21h00 and 05h00,” said Ernest North, the co-founder of Naked Insurance.

Tracker’s data shows some specific periods where South Africans are at risk – including specific times and specific days.

For example, the company said you are more likely to be hijacked on a Friday (between 15h00 and 22h00) and have your vehicle stolen on a Saturday (between 11h00 and 15h00).

This shows hijackers are now choosing to operate earlier rather than later.

“There’s a common perception that crimes like hijacking mainly occur after dark, but these statistics remind us that drivers must remain vigilant at all times,” North added.

Read: One major crime in South Africa on the rise – and 71% of incidents happen in your driveway

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