How to protect yourself from hijackings in South Africa

 ·17 Aug 2023

South Africa has seen an uptick in hijackings, and Philippa Wild, Chief Underwriting Officer at Santam, has provided a host of tips for South African motorists to keep themselves safe.

With carjackings remaining a threat to South Africans, Philippa Wild from Santam has provided tips for motorists to keep themselves safe.

According to the latest quarterly crime statistics for the fourth quarter of the 2022/23 year – 1 January to 31 March 2023, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said that 5,119 cars were hijacked over the period – equating to 57 cars being stolen in South Africa every day.

Although this marks a 5.2% decline over the same period in the 2021/22 period, month-on-month data showed that carjackings increased by 14% from 1,614 in February to 1,842 in March.

The SAPS’s data shows that the Northern Cape (37.5%), North West (23%), the Free State (19%), Limpopo (13.4%), Western Caper (7.4%) and the Eastern Cape (7.1%) all saw substantial increases in the number of year-on-year hijackings.

Although Gauteng saw a 12.4% decrease in hijackings, it still equates to roughly half of all hijackings in the country – with 2,572 hijackings over the three months.

Wild said the number of hijackings reported in the crime statistics reflects the insurer’s claims experience.

“At Santam, we have seen a significant rise in crime-related vehicle claims for theft and hijacking over the past 18 months, particularly for high-value vehicles. Santam has also seen a trend in the theft of certain keyless vehicles through hijacking and car jamming methods,” Wild said.

She has urged motorists to remain extra vigilant at take every precaution to protect themselves.

Despite hijackings taking place all over South Africa, she said they mainly occur in the major metropolitan areas of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape.

“As vehicle technology advances, so do the techniques used by thieves to gain entry into targeted cars,” said Wild.

“With the rise in popularity of keyless vehicles, criminals have adapted their car jamming methods. Often they work in pairs, where one criminal remains with the vehicle and the other follows the driver to intercept the radio wave signal sent from the keyless remote to the vehicle receiver unit.”

She has thus provided a host of tips so that South Africans can stay safe:

  • Always remain alert when stationary at traffic lights or stop streets and while parked waiting to enter or exit your driveway/gate, particularly at night.

  • Make sure you are not being followed and if you suspect you are, don’t drive to your house, and don’t stop the car; drive to a busy area or the closest police station.

  • Make sure you have Smash and Grab anti-hijacking film on your car windows and keep your windows closed when stationary at traffic lights, etc.

  • Avoid known hijacking hotspots, and find alternative, safer routes to travel.

  • Always park your car off-street in a secure area, ideally in a garage at night, and while out and about during the day, it’s best to park in a highly visible area or in a paid undercover parking lot, where possible.

  • Use a signal-blocking case such as a Faraday pouch to store your key.

  • Do a manual check to see if your car doors are locked.

  • A good old-fashioned steering wheel lock is still a highly effective deterrent for thieves.

  • Install a tracking device in your car. Of course, this won’t keep it from getting stolen, but it can help with rapid recovery. But be sure to do your homework, as there are many different types of devices, some have much better recovery rates than others.

“Prioritising personal safety by proactively managing your risk to prevent a theft or hijacking from occurring in the first place is of the utmost importance in this heightened risk landscape,” concluded Wild.

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