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Interview with two ex-convicted hijackers

07 March 2018 Ryno Schutte, Pro-Active South Africa
Ryno Schutte, Managing Director at Pro-Active South Africa.

Ryno Schutte, Managing Director at Pro-Active South Africa.

Last week our Managing Director Ryno Schutte was in the position to interview two ex-hijackers who both served time in jail. Ryno was given the opportunity prior to an interview on television pertaining to hijackings. The discussion with the two ex-convicts shed some valuable light on the matter within South Africa. One needs to take into consideration that the information mentioned cannot be generalized, but there were huge similarities on the way criminal organizations operate.

To get a better understanding on the backgrounds of the two ex-convicts it became clear during our discussion that there is not just one path that a “hijacker” follows.

Convict #1 started stealing out of desperation while Ex-Convict #2 started stealing at a young age and eventually was deemed as a hero by youngsters in his neighbourhood and prior to being arrested hijacked for the rush, power and money. Both Ex-Cons came from two different walks of life but they both confirmed some sketchy but valuable insight into hijackings and organized crime.

Ex-Convict #1 came from a rural area in the Eastern Cape and relocated to Gauteng to look for employment. During his search he was not able to find employment and started stealing to feed himself. As humans we are pack orientated and search for friends with the same aspirations and ideals in life. Did Ex-Convict #1 befriend individuals within a “criminal organization” if we could call it that?. Due to peer pressure did the Ex-Convict #1 start stealing cars as the value of a vehicle was more than enough to sustain his daily needs for a longer period of time?. He confirmed that they received a list of vehicles sought for the week via unspecified channels and then started searching. He further added that most vehicles or targets are chosen not just minutes before the vehicle is stolen, but even days or weeks prior depending on the make and value of the vehicle. He further confirmed the fact that they study their victims daily routines and pounce when the victim will least expect.

As hotwiring a vehicle became more strenuous and time consuming did the “friends” he made suggest hijacking vehicles as it would provide them with greater opportunities to target higher value vehicles which meant more money?. The best of all ,the hijacked vehicle ,as he pointed out was not just the money they would receive for the vehicles when delivered, but also being able to sell any goods found in the vehicle like laptops, cellphones and jewellery from the victims. It was confirmed as per previous information received by us that the suspects only receive around R5000.00 for a German Manufactured vehicle.

Ex-Convict #1 was provided with a firearm by the “Bosses” to commit the crimes and he mentioned that he was apprehended once or twice which cost only R200 for him to get off. He was asked how many hijackings he committed before he was arrested and convicted at which point he paused for a few seconds before saying 5 hijackings. He did mention that he felt sorry for the victims, but he had a job to do. Ex-Convict #1 also made a point to mention that when he hijacked a vehicle he was just as nervous as the victims and the hijackings could have gone wrong very quickly, but was glad that it didn’t.

Ex-Convict #2 background was completely the opposite. He was born in Gauteng and mentioned that he started stealing at a very young age. He further mentioned his skills grew from “strength to strength” and started stealing vehicles by the age of 16. At the age of 19 he started hijacking vehicles (sometimes for a joyride though he didn’t posses a drivers license) but refused to mention the amount of vehicles he hijacked before being arrested. He also did not want to give too much details on the inner operations of the “team” he worked with. He pointed out just like Ex-Convict #1 that they receive a hot-list from higher up in the organization on vehicles required. He also confirmed that Victims are followed days and even weeks prior to the vehicle being hijacked and used “informants” that do not look suspicious and fit into a specific area. They sometimes use other stolen or hijacked vehicles that would not be deemed suspicious to follow the victims. If time ran out to find a suitable vehicle as requested on the list, they would hijack a random vehicle of the same make but not necessarily the model or colour that was requested. They will still get paid but a lower amount, or the vehicle will be taken to a chop shop as certain vehicles are worth more in parts.

One point that did stand out as mentioned by Ex-Convict #2 was that a R500 000.00 vehicle would be sold to a dealer for a mere R7000.00. When asked why so little did Ex-Convict #2 explain that they did the dirty work by hijacking a vehicle. It is in fact the dealers and the “Bosses” that make the money as they need to either change / clone all the details of the vehicles or export the vehicles to neighbouring countries. One of the audience members made a comment that they would gladly pay R7000.00 for a R500 000.00 vehicle. The comment just confirmed the reason why vehicles are being hijacked or stolen, there is a market and demand and this fuels the crime.

The comment regarding the amount being paid for a R500 000.00 vehicle made us quiver to say the least as it can be viewed that a suspect see your life worth as only R7000.00.

What the above discussion confirmed was that we as citizens do need to be more vigilant while driving, especially when we drive to work and return home. During the television interview the presenter did ask both Ex-Convicts how citizens can ensure that they do not become victims and both commented that citizens need to become more aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity to Authorities.

One of the most important facts to consider is to remain off our Mobile phones when approaching, while driving or when stationary. The Whatsapp, Email or Facebook post can wait and is not worth your vehicle or life. Put your phone on silent and program your phone to ring only if certain important calls need to be answered like family members. Also communicate with your loved ones when you leave in your vehicle and when they can expect you, while informing them to only phone you in an emergency situation.

Below are some of the other safety tips to take into consideration while being vigilant and remaining off your phone at all times being on top of the list.

Before Leaving your location:

1. Take a stroll around your vehicle to confirm that there is no one lurking around or in your vehicle before getting into your vehicle.
2. If your child will be driving with you, let them sit behind the driver of the vehicle. This will ensure that in the event of an incident that the driver can remove and shield the child with their backs towards the hijackers / suspects.
3. Ensure your number plates are both on the vehicle and no papers are stuck to the rear or front windows of your vehicle. This is a trend used by suspects to lure you into stopping while your vehicle is running to either retrieve the number plate or remove the papers.
4. Place all valuable items out of sight either under the seat or in the boot of your vehicle. Smash and grabs are also on the increase.
5. Ensure your windows and doors are closed and locked before leaving.
6. Plan your route before departure.

While Driving:

1. REMAIN OFF YOUR PHONE. NOT ONLY ARE YOU AT RISK FOR BEING INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT WHILE DRIVING AND BEING ON YOUR PHONE, YOU ARE ALSO PLACING YOUR FELLOW DRIVERS AT RISK. Not to mention it is illegal. Put your phone on Silent and out of reach while driving.
2. Be vigilant at all times and report any suspicious behaviour to the SAPS and your Local Security Service Provider.
3. If your windscreen or tyre is damaged while driving, drive to a well lit area before stopping to inspect the damage.
4. Do not stop for anyone that might indicate they are in need of help in deserted or high risk areas. Contact Law Enforcement, the SAPS or Security Company to assist.
5. Take a different route daily when leaving home or returning home. Criminals pounce on the fact that we are following the same routine and routes.
6. Though there is a misconception that only certain makes and models are being stolen or hijacked, if there is a need for a certain make or model vehicle in the vehicle crime market will any vehicle become a target.
7. Lower your music, eliminating distractions and be extra vigilant 1 km from your destination, ensuring that you are not being followed.
8. Park parallel to your home opening the gate prior to pulling into the driveway. Parking in your driveway while opening your gate might get you boxed in.

In the unfortunate event of a Hijacking:

1. At no given time resist the attacker or suspects.
2. Keep your hands visible at all times as the suspects are as nervous as you are.
3. Be submissive and listen to the suspects’ instructions.
4. Do not resist once you have exited the vehicle.
5. Place your child that is in a baby seat behind you to remove the child with ease. Indicate to the suspect that you have a child in the backseat and remove the child by shielding him / her as much as possible.
6. Remain calm and try to identify any useful information about the hijackers without staring at them.
- Take note of the Language the suspects speak
- Count the number of voices.
- Listen to the information the suspects share amongst themselves and possibly via cellphone.
- Estimate the height of the suspects by comparing it to your own height.
- Identify any clothing, markings and shoes of the suspects. Some suspects change their clothes but not their shoes.
7. Create time and space as quickly as possible between yourself and the threat.

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