This article was originally published on Wheels24.co.za.
Hijackings, car theft, smash & grab... Motorists in SA are plagued by many forms of vehicle-related crime.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics for 2016, report an increase in so-called “trio crimes”; car-hijackings, house robberies and robberies at non-residential areas. These include car theft and items stolen from vehicles.
Vehicle recovery specialist, Cartrack, has released useful tips and advice to help prevent vehicle crime in SA.
Andre Ittmann, CEO of Cartrack, said: "The most important thing to remember if you do become a victim to one of these crimes, is that your life is more valuable than your possessions. Focus on what you can do to prevent yourself and your loved ones from harm."
More than 1400 vehicles are hijacked each month in South Africa, according to crime statistics by the SAPS. Here's how you can avoid becoming a victim.
- Keep an eye on pedestrians at intersections and unfamiliar cars in your neighbourhood
- Never disregard someone as a threat because they are well dressed
- If you are approached by a hijacker keep your hands visible at all times
- Unlock your car only when you're close by
- A well-maintained car is less likely to break down and leave you vulnerable
- Avoid driving with your windows open and keep your doors locked. Place valuables out of sight
- If you suspect you are being followed, drive to your nearest police station or a busy public area
- When approaching a red traffic light, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green
Remote jamming has increased in SA. When you leave your vehicle (or home) and push the remote to activate the alarm system, a criminal can push a similar remote at the same time effectively blocking the signal of your remote. Cartrack adds: "Whilst previously being limited to shopping centres, this crime is becoming popular in areas where one wouldn’t be as careful; schools, hospitals, your front yard and other open spaces are hot areas."
- Be aware of the surroundings at all times and take note of suspicious persons or activity in and around a parking area
- Report suspicious activity to centre management or security
- Do not leave valuables in an unattended vehicle
- Be sure to check that the vehicle is indeed locked by testing the door and boot before walking away
- Do not leave valuable items of value lying in full view on car seats
- Park your car in a secure parking lot where there are lots of other vehicles
- Make sure your vehicle is locked before you walk away
- Install window safety film; "Not only will it serve as protection against potential smash and grab attacks but if you use a tinted film, it makes it more difficult for would-be criminals to see into the vehicle – especially at night," says Cartrack.
Smash and grabs
Smash and grabs are a common crime in South Africa, particularly at busy intersections of major metropolitan areas. This type of crime is perpetrated at all times of the day.
Often criminals will work in pairs, with one distracting the driver and the other smashing through a car’s window to grab valuables (i.e cellphone, bags, laptops).
- Be on the alert. Criminals tend to target distracted drivers
- If your valuables are visible from outside the vehicle, you could be a target
- Always keep all doors locked
- Cartrack: "You can keep one window open but only slightly. If your windows are struck by a spark plug it will provide some resilience."
- When driving at night, use the the middle lane, as criminals tend to hide in bushes/ grass along the road
- If you see any obstacles in the road such as rocks or tyres do not get out of your car to move them
- Some areas are notorious for smash-and-grab incidents. Be particularly careful whenever you see broken glass lying on the road
- You can fit your window with protective smash-and-grab film, which is usually tinted so that no one can see into the car, while also preventing the windows from shattering.