Data from the latest South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics shows an increase in courier hijacking across the country, with tracking companies warning of increasingly opportunistic criminals in residential areas.
The data shows that for the first three months of this year, 354 trucks or courier vans were reported as hijacked – a 24.6% increase from the same period in 2020.
That’s an average of four trucks or courier vans hijacked each day. These vehicles are being targeted for their cargo, usually food, appliances and other highly-priced goods.
Vehicle tracking company Tracker pointed to an increase in online purchases, with more South Africans getting goods delivered to their homes since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This has led to a rise in courier activity, the bulk of whom are unarmed and without training to deal with hijackings, making them soft targets.
“Usually, courier vans carrying high-value goods are specifically sought and targeted by syndicates. However, there are also opportunistic incidents that occur in residential areas. Either way, the situation is often violent and a threat to both delivery personnel and residents accepting deliveries.”
During a delivery, if something doesn’t seem right, or it feels unsafe, trust your gut, said Duma Ngcobo, chief operating officer at Tracker South Africa.
“Have a plan that you can put into action in the event of an emergency situation. Try to ensure someone in the house observes your interactions with delivery personnel so they can request help if necessary.”
Tracker outlined tips to keep safe when are expecting a home delivery.
“You wouldn’t normally invite strangers into your home, and the same applies with home deliveries. Before opening the door or gate, verify the identification of the person. Also, look for activity in the street that might indicate that the courier van is being followed,” Tracker said.
“Make sure your driveway and the area around it is well lit at night and clear of shrubs or bushes that could block your view or be used as hiding spots.”
When ordering goods online, you usually get a notification of delivery date and, sometimes, time. This allows you to plan ahead, ensuring that someone is at home to accept the delivery.
In some cases, depending on the supplier and what you have ordered, you can actually track delivery in real-time. In other cases, the delivery personnel will phone you shortly before arriving, Tracker said.
“Use these notifications to help with verifying that you are opening for the correct person, but also to prepare for the delivery. This way you can make sure that the delivery occurs as quickly as possible, and that you don’t keep the delivery personnel waiting outside your gate, which could attract negative attention.
“Consider receiving the delivery inside your premises with the gate closed, particularly for big-ticket items that will attract attention, like a big-screen TV.”
Be alert and on the lookout for suspicious persons or vehicles throughout the delivery.
This includes checking if the courier van is being followed when they arrive, being vigilant while the delivery is taking place, and checking if any persons or vehicles are loitering in the street before they leave.
Often with online ordering you pay for the goods ahead of receiving them, said Tracker.
“Yet, for some deliveries, such as a pizza delivery, you might choose to pay with cash. Don’t flash the money during the delivery. Try to avoid night deliveries as much as possible. Also, consider using a pick-up point or locker instead of home delivery.”
Should an emergency situation arise, remember your life is worth more than valuables, so keep calm and co-operate.
Get away from the situation if possible. Report the incident as soon as you can. Try to remember as much detail as possible to provide a good description to authorities that may assist them in identifying and apprehending the perpetrators.