Some take one minute. Others take two. At tops it’s five minutes. And if they can’t steal it, they hijack it.
The going rate is anything from R3000 to R30 000 a car depending on what they steal.
And when it comes to hotspots, shopping malls are still their preference, offering a wide variety of cars to choose from.
Two Soweto car thieves spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity and revealed the ins and outs of the car theft industry.
Keith*, aged 33, is a serial car thief. Serving time for hijacking, he has stolen more than 100 vehicles in areas from Randburg to Melville.
“The Nissan 1400 bakkie and a Toyota bakkie,” said Keith, “take one minute to steal. A Golf takes two minutes and a Polo five minutes.”
But it depends on how you steal a car, he added.
One way is to bring your own computer box for the car. When cars don’t have computer boxes, a customised size eight Allen key will do.
The shorter end of the “L” shape is welded to a metal rod for the hand to rest on. The tip of the longer end is ground to a sharp point, flattened and then used to either unlock the car or start it.
“Golfs and Yarises are still in but the Toyota Fortuner is most popular. In fact 4x4s are in demand because they go over the border. You get good money for a 4x4 – between R15 000 and R20 000 on the spot.”
A Conquest is worth R3000 on the black market. The newer Toyota VVTI bakkie fetches R10 000.
For a Yaris and a Run X, Keith pocketed R7000 and R8000. A Golf 5 got him R25 000. A CitiGolf is worth R4000, unless it’s a Velocity or CitiRox model, which fetch between R6000 and R7000.
Keith’s haul would head for a scrapyard to be stripped for parts. The dealer, Keith said, wound make three times what he got by selling those parts separately.
For Thabo*, 25, who is not in jail, it’s different.
He specialises in Toyotas. And he works only on orders. A buyer calls and specifies what he wants. It’s his job to get it within two days.
His team will go to malls or to the suburbs. “We sit for an hour to see the situation,” he said.
Thabo’s role is to open and start the car.
“Two of us will approach the car we want. The third guy will sit in the car we came with.”
First Thabo forces the Allen key into the door lock to open the car. Then he uses the allen key to start the car. Sometimes he just strips off the ignition cover and “hot wires” the car by connecting the red and black wires together.
Both Keith and Thabo are unperturbed about alarms, tracking devices, car guards and police.
With tracking devices, each has his own method.
Keith would check the car himself for the device as they drive off, whereas Thabo drops the car off with an “expert” to locate the device.
“Security guards, car guards and petrol attendants are not a problem. Everyone needs money. If you give him R100 you can get away with that car,” Thabo says.
And their target areas?
“I often go to the Oriental Plaza in Fordsburg. We get most of the cars there, but Sunninghill and Randburg are easy to steal in. And Auckland Park, near the SABC, there are lots of cars that park in the street,” Thabo said.
WHAT TO DO WHEN DRIVING:
-Make sure you are not being followed. This is particularly important after leaving a bank or shopping centre, as hijackers will often ‘shop’ there for their victims.
-If you have an electric gate, try not to pull up in front of it while you are waiting for it to open. If you do, hijackers can box you in by parking behind you.
-If you think you are being followed, perform four right turns before you go home. If the same vehicle is still behind you, go to the nearest police station.
-Clear all unnecessary foilage around your front gate and keep your front yard well lit. Dogs, circular security mirrors showing both sides of the wall and palisade fencing help to improve security.
-Lock your car doors when travelling.
-Tell someone your schedule so they can react if you don’t arrive within a reasonable time.
-Be wary of strangers standing at the gate. Hijackers sometimes pose as visitors trying to get hold of someone, and attack you as you pull up.
-When you arrive home, lock away your vehicle as soon as possible.
-If you have visitors, say your goodbyes inside your home and allow your guests to leave your property promptly.
-Maintain a gap between yourself and the car in front of you at an intersection, giving you an escape route in an emergency.
-Don’t allow yourself to be distracted at either the driver’s window or a passenger window.