Big spike in hijackings seen in South Africa – including an increase in ‘boxing’ and ‘follow the leader’ tactics

With more cars back on the road, hijackers are seizing the opportunity by pouncing on unsuspecting motorists resulting in a significant spike in hijackings, says insurer Dialdirect.

“Hijackings are unfortunately a prevailing part of our crime story, with over 30,000 hijackings of motor vehicles, including trucks, taking place in a single year,” says Bianca de Beer, spokesperson for Dialdirect.

“Our claims data shows that hijackings have increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020,” she said.

Richard Brussow, director of the National Hijacking Prevention Academy (NHPA), has been investigating hijackings for 21 years and recently shared their findings from an in-depth analysis of hijackings that took place between August 2019 and July 2020.

Some key findings of the report when it comes to hijacking trends show that although hijackings occur every day of the week, they typically peak on Fridays. More hijackings occur from 12h00 midday, peaking at between 16h00 and 20h00.

Brussow said that hijackers prefer spots where vehicles are moving slowly or stationary – ideally spots where there are easy escape routes – with most hijackings taking place in residential driveways.

“Other hotspots include traffic signs or intersections, the side of the road (when the driver stops to answer the phone, for example), schools, filling stations, parking areas and places where passengers are picked up or dropped off,” he said.

Pistols and revolvers are mostly used, with a smaller percentage of hijackings involving high calibre guns, knives and even bare hands.”

Brussow said that the modus operandi of hijackers typically includes the following methods:

  • Boxing in: Choosing spots where victims can’t escape easily;
  • Forced stop: Using vehicles to force the victim off the road;
  • Follow the leader: Following victims from busy public spaces to quieter spots;
  • Test drive: Posing as potential buyers of advertised vehicles who’d like a test drive;
  • Blue light: Posing as police or traffic officials.


The NHPA and Dialdirect provided the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Stats and hotspots aside, it’s wise to always be alert, especially where your vehicle will be moving slowly, or coming to a complete stop. Avoid being distracted and pay careful attention to your surroundings.
  • Know your neighbours, keep your driveway free of places where perpetrators can hide and ensure its well-lit. Remember to lock doors when driving.
  • Plan your route carefully to avoid driving at unsafe times, through unsafe areas, or coming to a stop / driving slower, and thus becoming an easier target. Alternate your habits and routes to avoid being a predictable target.
  • If you suspect you are being followed, make a couple of false turns. If someone is still following you, drive to the nearest police station.Automatic gate: If possible, stop in the road, parallel to your gate, giving yourself an escape route. Once the gate is fully open, turn in and stop your vehicle just on the inside. Wait for it to close behind you before proceeding to park. You want to avoid being followed into your property, as a hijacking could turn into a house robbery.
  • Non-automatic gate: Stop right in front of the gate. Check if it’s safe before exiting your vehicle. Leave the key in the ignition and engine running, open and close the door so that, in the event of an attack, the perpetrator does not have to approach you to take the vehicle. Move as swiftly as you can.
  • Time your approach to traffic lights in such a way that you don’t have to come to a complete stop. When stopping behind a vehicle at a traffic light / stop sign, make sure you can see its rear tyres touch the road surface. This will make it more difficult to be boxed in and give you enough space to escape, if needed. Also move swiftly when pickup up or dropping off passengers or goods.
  • Keep your phone and other valuables out of sight. Thieves and hijackers often “window shop” before striking. Avoid driving with windows wide open.
  • In the event of your vehicle been given a light bump from behind, do not exit immediately. If the bump wasn’t hard enough to damage your vehicle, and you feel that there might be a threat, indicate to the vehicle behind you to follow you to a place of safety (filling station, police station) to exchange information.
  • If you are followed by a vehicle with a blue light and you it’s best to reduce your speed, switch on emergency lights and indicate that they must follow you (your intentions must be very clear and understandable). Stop where you feel safe, e.g. nearest police station. Do not drive home.
  • Perpetrators use jamming devices to interfere with the locking system of your vehicle with the intention to steal your valuables, or worse. When leaving your vehicle, make sure the doors are locked before walking away. When returning, lock the doors as soon as you’ve entered and don’t rely on the vehicle to lock automatically.

Read: ‘Arrest warrant’ scam targeting drivers in South Africa

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Big spike in hijackings seen in South Africa – including an increase in ‘boxing’ and ‘follow the leader’ tactics