Police minister Bheki Cele has published the crime statistics for Q1 2021/2022, with a steep increase in hijackings reported.
Unlike previous reports, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has chosen to compare the crime data to Q1 2019 instead of Q1 2020 to account for the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
“We cannot compare the same period of this year and last year, due to the skewed and abnormal crime trends, caused by the different levels of lockdown, if we are to understand this crime picture that we are presenting to you today,” Cele said.
“While we will not sweep the high and unnatural figures under the carpet, we will instead bring to the fore a holistic picture of comparing the 2021/22 Q1 crime figures to a ‘normal period’ two years ago where there was no lockdown.”
Despite accounting for this difference, the data shows a clear increase in hijackings across South Africa compared to 2019 and as the country eased the lockdown restrictions in 2020.
The data shows that aggravated robberies such as carjacking increased by 92.2% compared to Q1 2019. By comparison, carjacking increased by 13.1% compared to Q1 2020.
The most notable trend can be seen in the differing impact of lockdown levels, as the country moved from a level 5 lockdown at the end of March 2020 (394 hijackings) to a level 3 lockdown in June (1,376 hijackings).
A similar trend was seen in reverse as the country saw a high number of hijackings during its level 1 lockdown in May 2021 (1,775 hijackings), with this dropping to 1,675 hijackings as the country moved to a level 3 lockdown in June.
Cele said that level 5 lockdown was effectively a ‘crime holiday’ for South Africa.
“The crime holiday is long gone, and these figures should action us and strengthen our resolve.
“The figures as distorted as they are must also sharpen the SAPS operational responses to make South Africa safer for all who live in it.”
As with the country’s other major crimes statistics, the majority of the cases were reported in the most populous areas.
Most carjacking cases were reported in Gauteng (2,704), followed by the KZN (820) and the Western Cape (589). Most of these hijackings take place in townships, followed closely by residential areas.
The table below highlights the areas which have had the most hijacking cases reported to their respective police stations in the first quarter:
Phillipi East in the Western Cape reported the most carjackings (78), followed by Sandton in Gauteng (68) and Nyanga in the Western Cape (67).
Hijacking more prevalent
Data published by vehicle-tracking company Tracker in August shows that the nature of vehicle crime is changing as hijackers become more brazen and desperate.
For the past three years, hijacking has been increasing and is now more prevalent than vehicle theft, said Duma Ngcobo, chief operating officer at Tracker South Africa.
Hijacking attributed a higher percentage of the Tracker vehicle crime activities in 2021 when compared to theft, averaging a 54/46% split.
“The slant towards hijacking is most likely an opportunistic tactic, with a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly fast-moving consumable goods.
“Drivers carrying large amounts of cash are also being targeted. South Africans should be wary and remain vigilant, especially when returning home from shopping or when goods bought online are delivered to their homes. Hijackings are often violent, and there are instances where a hostage is taken,” said Ngcobo.
Other tactics include criminals impersonating law enforcement officials to commit hijackings, a method otherwise known as blue light robberies, he said.
“Criminals also commit vehicle theft using online selling platforms, where sellers hand over goods on receipt of a fake payment.
“Sometimes, criminals pretend there is something wrong with your vehicle, a method known as flagging down. They also take advantage of drivers stopped on the side of the road or those picking up hitchhikers,” said Ngcobo.