Hijackings in South Africa increased 14.5 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the South African Police Service (SAPS), and some 30,664 South Africans were victims, the 2016/17 Victims of Crime Survey revealed. On average, that was 84 hijackings per day.
This form of crime is most common in Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
"Hijackers are pouncing on unsuspecting vehicle owners wherever the opportunity presents itself," said Warwick Scott-Rodger, executive head of Dialdirect. "Theirs is a multimillion-rand industry in which anything from a meticulously planned hijacking to more opportunistic hits are just another day at the office. South African vehicle owners have to take this very seriously and be thoroughly prepared."
According to Dialdirect's crime statistics, the top five vehicle hijacking trends are:
1. Vehicles hijacked at fuel stations
Drivers of vehicles are approached by assailants at fuel stations while filling up with petrol. Hijackers approach the driver from his or her blind-spot and force the driver out of the vehicle.
2. Stranger danger
Vehicle owners are approached at social spots by strangers who try to befriend them and later spike their drinks, take their keys and make off with their vehicle.
3. Blue-light robberies
Vehicle owners are pulled over by imposters posing as traffic or police officials — often in unmarked vehicles. Once they are pulled over, they are overpowered and their vehicles taken.
4. Vehicles taken in house robberies
Vehicle owners are overpowered in their homes and vehicles are taken along with other possessions.
5. Vehicles hijacked after driver is followed home.
Assailants follow vehicles home, after which owners are boxed in and hijacked in their driveway. Assailants often wait for the owner to enter the property and then block the security gate from closing behind them.
According to vehicle tracking company Ctrack, these were the most stolen or hijacked car brands in 2016:
- Passenger vehicles: Volkswagen most popular make, while Polo was the most popular model hijacked. These were followed closely by models from Toyota, then Ford.
- SUVs: Toyota most popular make, with the Fortuner the most popular model targeted. The next most popular for hijackers were models from Land Rover and Nissan.
- Manufacturer trucks: Nissan was the most popular make targeted, followed closely by Scania.
The truth is that thieves will literally steal any car. But if you drive a VW, especially a VW Polo, then you're most likely to get hijacked. VW is a very popular brand; that's why its being targeted by thieves. Even if y'all stop buying it, thieves will hijack another popular brand— SbalCOOL (@iamSbalCOOL) December 15, 2017
Dialdirect offers the following tips to reduce your chances of becoming a victim:
- Always be aware of your surroundings and look out for anything suspicious.
- Remain vigilant while filling up with fuel, especially at night. Keep doors locked and windows closed while filling up, and only open the window when it is time to pay. Keep an eye out for suspicious movement, especially in your vehicle's blind-spot.
- Do not trust someone who offers you a drink out of the blue, or who suggests that you accompany them to a different venue for a drink.
- If you are at all unsure of whether the vehicle trying to pull you over is actually an official police vehicle, remain calm, switch on your vehicle's hazard lights to show that you are prepared to cooperate, and drive to the nearest police station.
- Be vigilant while at home and keep security gates locked to prevent assailants gaining entry to your home. Ensure that you are aware of where your alarm panic buttons are, and that your security company will respond when this is activated. It is also wise to keep your vehicle's spare keys in a safe place, out of sight, and do not leave the primary key in the vehicle when parked in your garage.
- Be vigilant when arriving home and ensure that there is sufficient lighting at the entrance to your property. Be aware of suspicious vehicles following you, and if you suspect that you are being followed, make a couple of false turns if need be, then drive to the nearest police station.
- Make sure that the way you approach your driveway does not make it difficult to escape if another vehicle stops behind you. Open your driveway gate while approaching, and not only after you have stopped in front of it. When driving, leave enough room between you and the car in front of you to avoid being boxed in.
- Avoid driving with windows open, keep the doors locked and lock valuables out of sight. Install smash-and-grab window protection if possible.
- Slow down in such a way that the light is green by the time you reach a traffic light, especially late at night — this prevents you coming to a complete stop and reduces your risk of becoming a target.
- Always park in a safe, well-lit area.
- Check the back seat before getting into the car, even if you left it locked.
"None of us can afford to think that 'It won't happen to me'. We have to be vigilant and thoroughly prepared for the worst," Scott-Rodger concluded.