Tracker recently released their vehicle crime stats for the year July 2018 to June 2019, providing insight into where and when vehicles are most likely to be hijacked or stolen, based on their 1.1 million installed vehicle base. The stats showed that KwaZulu Natal accounted for the second-highest number of activations, with theft of vehicles in KZN occurring predominantly in the Glenwood, Morningside and Musgrave areas and hijackings occurring predominantly in the Sydenham, Imbali (in Pietermaritzburg) and Avoca Hills areas.
Another alarming statistic reported by Tracker is that 29% of their activations resulted in a hostage being taken. As was the case for Hafiz Talha, a Durban North resident who was taken on a 12-minute nightmare drive, just last month. Talha was returning to his car as he pulled out his car keys, disarming the alarm and opening the door, when he was approached by five armed men. He cooperated with their demands, handing over his cellphone, car keys and climbing into the car. Miraculously, as they drove, the clutch packed up and the suspects fled leaving Talha alone inside the broken-down vehicle.
Hijackers rely heavily on the element of surprise and use a variety of methods to catch unsuspecting motorists off-guard. As in the case of Hafiz, the hijackers were described as neatly dressed and well-spoken and they approached him rather “unsuspiciously”. Police have cautioned road users that criminals have become more inventive, utilizing various new techniques to hijack vehicles:
Unchanged from previous records, Tracker’s report states that the majority of hijackings occur on a Friday between 11:00 and 13:00, followed by 20:00 to 23:00. If possible, avoid being on the road during these high-risk hours.
Even during low-risk hours, it is important to stay actively aware of your surroundings so as not to become an easy target. Be extra cautious when leaving or returning to your car and if possible, park in areas that are well-lit and preferably guarded. When checking your rearview mirror, pay attention to the vehicle behind you to ensure you aren’t being followed and if you suspect you are being followed – drive to the nearest police station.
Try to avoid driving through unfamiliar areas, especially during high-risk hours. Always plan your route, inform someone of that route and when to expect you at your destination. Change your routine routes on a regular basis, to avoid becoming predictable to criminals that may be observing you.
If you are unsure that the vehicle or person pulling you over is an official, remember to remain calm and switch on your hazards – showing that you are prepared to cooperate – then drive to the nearest police station. When approaching a red traffic light, slow down until it turns green to avoid stopping, especially at night. When stopping behind another vehicle, leave half a vehicle length to provide enough space to escape in an emergency.
Regularly checking your tyres and ensuring your vehicle is well-maintained will decrease the likelihood of having to stop your vehicle, which leaves you vulnerable to hijackers. Service stations are known to be targeted by hijackers, when filling up with fuel keep your doors and windows closed, only opening when it’s time to pay and stay vigilant to suspicious activity, particularly in your vehicle’s blind spot.
In the event that you find yourself in a hijacking situation, remember to remain calm and do not attempt to argue with the hijackers. If asked to step out of the vehicle, use the hand closest to the seat belt to unclip it. Avoiding eye contact and refraining from any sudden gestures, comply with their requests.
Always remember that your life is more valuable than your vehicle.
METH, O. (2019). Durban cleric relives 12-minute ‘horror’ hijacking | IOL News. [online] Iol.co.za. Available at: https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/durban-cleric-relives-12-minute-horror-hijacking-30939639 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2019].
The South African. (2019). Hijackings: Police warn of three new tactics used to target motorists. [online] Available at: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/hijackings-new-methods-south-africa-september-2019/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2019].
TimesLIVE. (2019). Avoid being a victim of crime with these insights from a reformed hijacker. [online] Available at: https://www.timeslive.co.za/motoring/features/2019-08-29-avoid-being-a-victim-of-crime-with-these-insights-from-a-reformed-hijacker/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2019].
Tracker.co.za. (2019). Tracker. [online] Available at: https://www.tracker.co.za/news/news-room/when-and-where-most-vehicle-crime-takes-place-in-sa [Accessed 9 Sep. 2019].