Smash and grabs are on the rise in South Africa – here’s how to protect yourself

 ·25 Nov 2023

Hijackings and smash-and-grabs are an unfortunate reality in South Africa – but there are a few ways South Africans can act to prevent themselves from becoming targets.

Although the City of Cape Town said that it recorded a slight decrease in vehicle thefts from April to September, there was a 500% increase in the number of smash-and-grab incidents

The City said that the following six intersections were smash-and-grab hotspots:

  • Intersections along Jakes Gerwel Drive
  • Stellenbosch Arterial Road and Adam Tas Road
  • Robert Sobukwe Road and 35th Avenue
  • 35th Avenue and Bishop Lavis Drive
  • Owen Street and 35th Avenue
  • Reygersdal on the Atlantis MyCiTi route

Being aware of one’s surroundings is key to protecting yourself at intersections.

“Being on your cellphone, adjusting the radio or infotainment system, or even just daydreaming automatically makes you a target. At intersections, criminals scout for easy targets. Paying attention to people alongside the road and to your surroundings makes you less of a target,” CEO of MasterDrive Eugene Herbert said.

“The City of Cape Town says during a recent awareness drive, a large number of drivers were using their phones at intersections. MasterDrive continually urges drivers to leave their phones alone while driving. This is not just while moving but even when you are stationary. You put yourself at risk to both traffic incidents and criminals even at a standstill.” 

There are also several other steps to take to ensure that you are safe in South Africa.

“Anticipate the conditions ahead to try to avoid coming to a complete stop. If a traffic light is red, immediately start slowing down and gradually approach and only start picking up speed again once it turns green. This way, you are not a standing target,” the group said.

“Load shedding and broken traffic lights can make this more difficult, but there are still measures to take even if you are forced to come to a complete stop. Firstly, never block yourself in. There should be enough room ahead of you, in particular, but also ideally on either side and behind you so if you see someone suspicious approaching, you have room for evasive action.”

In addition, drivers should put their possessions in the boot and their phones or other valuables out of sight.

“Even placing shopping bags, non-valuable items or throwing your jacket onto the backseat creates opportunities. Put everything in the boot and valuable items in closable storage compartments. Hiding handbags under the seat is risky, and even key fobs shouldn’t be visible.”

Read: The most common crimes in every province in South Africa

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