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Vehicle crime continues to be a harsh reality

04 March 2019 Jonathan Faurie

At the end of last year, FAnews published a newsletter which discussed the increase in criminal activity that takes place over the festive season.

One aspect that we did not discuss was motor vehicle crime. FAnews spoke to Ron Knott-Craig, Executive Operational Services at Tracker, who pointed out that motor vehicle crime (theft and hijacking) has significantly changed. 

Sticky fingers

South Africa has a reputation of having one of the highest instances of car theft on the African continent. Knott-Craig pointed out that the 2018 calendar year (excluding December 2018), saw an average of just under 300 vehicles per month being stolen. 

“It is interesting to note that December 2017 and 2018 both saw less than 250 vehicles being stolen. The number of vehicles stolen in December 2017 and 2018 was nearly 20% less than the average for both calendar years,” said Knott-Craig. 

He added that activity in Gauteng declined during December 2018. However, there was an increase in some of the other provinces which can more than likely be attributed to the festive season and an increase in visitors to their holiday destinations in other provinces.  

Gangsters paradise

One of the other unfortunate labels that South Africa has to live with is the fact that hijacking is rife. This is often perpetrated by syndicates who transport highjacked vehicles over the border into neighbouring countries where there is a high demand. 

“The 2018 calendar year (excluding December 2018), saw an average of just over 200 vehicles per month being reported. Nationally, there was a 6% decrease in vehicles being reported as hijacked. In both December 2017 and 2018, less than 200 vehicles were reported hijacked,” said Knott-Craig. 

He added that there was a decrease in the number of hijacking activations in Gauteng which is once again likely due to the movement of people to other provinces over the holidays. 

Current trends

Current trends indicate that vehicles are stolen for the following reasons: 

  • to be used for spare parts within South Africa;
  • reintroduction into the market; and
  • the vehicle is taken across the border. 

“With regards to hijacking, the same modus operandi is still being utilised. These include things like boxing people into their driveways and being followed home from the airport, the mall or a petrol station. Tracker has however, seen an increase in the level of violence used during a hijacking and the number of hostages being taken in 2018. This trend continues into 2019,” said Knott-Craig. 

Vigilance is key

We need to be wary as a criminal act can happen anywhere and at any time. Knott-Craig points out that the public should not believe it could never happen to them. Rather, they should keep these safety tips in mind: 

  • Be aware; don’t be an easy target. While driving, be vigilant about your surroundings. Also, be alert and on the lookout for suspicious persons or vehicles;
  • Watch your tail; pay close attention to ensure that you are not being followed. If you think you are being followed drive to a police station;
  • Do not be flashy. In some cases, hijackings occur not for the vehicle itself but for the valuables inside. Avoid driving with your valuables in plain sight;
  • Be prepared. Have your access card or driver’s license ready to ensure that you can pass through the boom gate of an office park or housing estate as soon as possible. Also, don’t talk on your mobile phone while entering any premises as attackers are relying on you being distracted and vulnerable;
  • Drive on. If something looks suspicious as you’re approaching an access-controlled area, rather drive off and come back later. Have a back-up plan in case of an emergency;
  • Testing, testing. Regularly test your tracking device to make sure it’s working, including the assist button if your device has one; and
  • Keep calm – If you are hijacked, remember your life is worth more than your valuables, so keep calm, co-operate and try to get away as quickly as possible. 

“Criminals are most likely to strike when you least expect it and you’ve dropped your guard,” says Knott-Craig, “it’s important that you are vigilant at all times and that you are aware of your surroundings and able to get away should the need arise.” 

Editor’s Thoughts:
These statistics obviously impact the insurance industry and helps insurers rate their risk appropriately. We cannot ignore these statistics, but we can be vigilant and proactively manage our own risk. Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts jonathan@fanews.co.za.

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