Criminals ‘back to work’ as theft and hijacking returns to pre-lockdown levels in South Africa

While South Africa experienced a significant drop in vehicle crime during the national lockdown, criminal activity is now returning to normal levels as the country’s restrictions are being lifted says vehicle-tracking company Tracker.

The group’s data, which is based on more than 1.1 million vehicles, shows that there was a a 90% reduction in the number of vehicle recovery activities nationally during the first week of the lockdown, as compared to the average weekly vehicle recovery activities pre-lockdown.

This is in line with a preliminary police report that noted a decline in trio crimes, namely car and truck hijackings, business robberies, and house robberies, down to 2,098 in the first week of the national lockdown from 8,853 during the same period in 2019.

However, Tracker said that vehicle crime activities are now increasing as the country’s restrictions are being lifted.

During the lockdown extension, the number of vehicle recovery activities increased nearly three-fold compared to the first week of lockdown, it said.

“The first week of level 4 restrictions has seen vehicle recovery activities more than double compared to the lockdown extension figures, representing a six-fold increase from the first week of lockdown to figures that are now only 35% lower than pre-lockdown averages.

“Vehicle crime activities are set to rise even further, back to the same levels or even higher as South Africans return to work and criminals resume their operations,” Tracker said.

Hijackings vs theft

Tracker noted that during the first three weeks of lockdown, hijackings attributed a higher percentage of vehicle recovery activities compared to theft.

The pre-Covid-19 Tracker average for hijackings and theft is a 50/50% split, it said.

“The initial lockdown period saw an average 63/37% split in the favour of hijackings. This returned to a more even split during the extended lockdown period where Tracker noticed an increase in vehicle movement with more citizens on the road as regulations were eased.

“The slant towards hijackings during lockdown is most likely an opportunistic tactic with criminals preying on vehicles out in the open, while most other vehicles would have been securely locked away.”

Further crime trends noted by Tracker include a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly food items and fast-moving consumable goods.

Clients are also being robbed of their valuables and in some instance’s large amounts of cash, it said.

Fewer cars

The decrease in vehicle crime activities during lockdown can be attributed to fewer vehicles on the road and a higher presence of law enforcement, said Ron Knott-Craig, executive: Operational Services at Tracker South Africa.

“However, we are already seeing an escalation in crime activities as vehicle movement increases and we expect to get back to pre-Covid-19 vehicle crime levels, possibly as early as this week.

“Like the rest of the country, criminals are resuming their activities under eased restrictions. Under last week’s level 4 restrictions, we recovered a vehicle in partnership with law enforcement, which was being moved across a transnational border.”

Knott-Craig said that South Africans should be particularly vigilant as day-to-day life goes back to normal, especially when returning home from shopping/

“Make sure that your vehicle tracking device is in working order and make use of the features offered by your vehicle tracking service.

“For instance, share your journey with a friend or loved one ensuring that they know where you are and that you are safe. Today’s tracking services are an ideal solution for motorists looking not only to protect their car but to ensure their safety.”


Read: New rules allow for the buying, selling and servicing of cars during lockdown

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Criminals ‘back to work’ as theft and hijacking returns to pre-lockdown levels in South Africa