The National Hijack Prevention Academy has warned that vehicle hijacking is an organised business, run according to business principles and based on thorough planning. In addition, hijackings have increased dramatically this past year due to the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to steal motor vehicles, with anti-theft devices such as immobilisers, gear-locks, regularly thwarting thieves.
According to the SAPS, there were over 14,600 reported car hijackings between 2015 and 2016, up 14.3% from 12,770 cases in the prior period. Statistically, this shows that 40 cars are hijacked every day in South Africa (up from 35 in 2015), or roughly one car every 36 minutes.
As has always been the case, car and truck hijacking is most common in South Africa’s most populated province, Gauteng, followed by other built-up provinces such as KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape. Over half (50.5%) of all reported car hijackings occur in Gauteng (7,376 cases), and 58.% of all reported truck hijackings (695 cases).
The increasing retrenchment and the high unemployment figures are also factors. “This is easy earned money and the already well-established syndicates will buy these vehicles from the hijacker,” the academy said.
It noted that specific vehicles with specific characteristics are ordered before the crime has even been committed and efforts have to be made to meet the requirements of such orders. “These vehicles will then be resold to the already predetermined buyer,” the group said.
The hijacked vehicles that are not sold to buyers in South Africa, will be smuggled out of the country. “These vehicles will be sold in our neighbouring countries or trade, exchanged for drugs”.
It noted that the large number of stolen and unlicensed firearms were also a concern. Most of these firearms are bought or supplied to hijackers by the syndicates. This easy access to firearms make the robbery of a vehicle the easiest crime to commit and by far the quickest way of earning a few thousand rand.
“It is obvious that vehicle hijackers are motivated by greed and an insatiable need for more and more comfort, rather than need. An insatiable hunger for power is another theme emerging in robbers. The power-base for the latter is presented by the access to firearms. Possession of a firearm forces everybody to obey or else face the consequences,” it said.
By further way of warning, the National Hijack Prevention Academy has identified the days of the week and time of day in which hijackings occur most frequently:
The analysis indicated that hijackings occur every day of the week, reaching a high on Fridays, due to motorists being more relaxed and traffic increasing earlier on a Friday.
Weekends show a lower hijacking rate due to syndicates checking their stock and placing orders on Mondays as well as the fact that there are fewer vehicles on the road. “This also explains why Tuesdays and Wednesdays show more hijackings,” the academy said.
Hijacking of vehicles reached its lowest point at 02h00 in the morning. Hijackings are low during the night and early hours of the morning, and start increasing at 06h00 due to motorists leaving home for work. This number then stabilises throughout the day.
A drastic increase occurred from 17h00 in the afternoon due to motorists heading towards home, the academy said.
According to the prevention body, vehicles hijacked during this peak hour (16h00 – 20h00) may be explained by the fact that people returning from work are often tired, frustrated and not alert to potentially threatening circumstances.
“Negligence on behalf of the motorist should also not be excluded, e.g. an idling vehicle is left unattended to open a gate in the driveway. This trend is not new and the motorist will become the prey of hijackers. Another explanation for this phenomenon is that highways are congested with traffic, which make it almost impossible to catch hijackers involved without air support once they have disappeared into traffic,” the academy said.