File picture: Gary van Wyk / Independent Media.

South Africa's latest crime statistics, released on Friday by the police ministry, showed a worrying 14.3 percent year-on-year increase in car hijackings. Yet the long-term trend is somewhat more alarming, with the rate having surged by 55 percent in the last four years, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

The total number of car hijackings in the last recorded period (April 2015 to March 2016) stood at 14 602, an average of 40 a day and up from 12 773 in 2014/2015 and 9417 in 2011/12. However last year's number was still slightly below the 14 885 hijackings recorded in 2008/09.

Looking at the provincial figures, the Western Cape experienced an alarming 32 percent increase in hijackings, from 1530 in 2014/15 to 2032 in 2015/16. However, the Gauteng remains the undisputed carjack capital, with a whopping 7367 taking place in the last year, up 7.3 percent year-on-year. The next highest incidence was in Kwa-Zulu Natal, with 2493 taking place in 2015/16, up 13.8 percent year-on-year.

The biggest increase, percentagewise, took place in the Northern Cape, which experienced a 213.3 percent surge in the crime, albeit from an extremely low base of 15 hijackings in 2014/15 to 47 in 2015/16.

Next up was the North West Province, where hijackings were up 33.1 percent from 278 in 2014/15 to 370 in 2015/16. Limpopo was up 30.4 percent (345 to 450), the Eastern Cape 24.3 percent (769 to 956) and Mpumalanga 23.6 percent (509 to 629).

The only province that saw a decrease in hijackings was the Free State, down 4.4 percent to 258, from 270 the previous year.

Truck hijackings, car theft down

While car hijacking increased, truck hijacking was down 7.4 percent in the last year, from 1279 to 1184. However, there has still been an upward trend from 2011/12, when just 821 truck hijackings were recorded. The area that experienced the most truck hijackings was Heidelberg south of Joburg, although Gauteng's year-on-year figure actually decreased by 13.6 percent.

Actual theft of motor vehicles was down 2.3 percent on the year before, and this forms part of a long-term decline that has seen annual thefts decrease by 37 percent in nine years, from 85 979 in 2006/07 to 53 809 in 2015/16. However, this will be of little comfort to motorists when the far scarier prospect of being hijacked is actually increasing each year.

Read: How to deal with a hijacking

Commenting on the carjacking numbers, Dr Johan Burger of the ISS said the figures suggest that South Africa is losing the war against organised crime and that the topic deserves far greater attention:

“Better use of crime intelligence, with support from experienced detectives and forensic capacity will go far in reducing these crimes. A good example is the success in tackling truck hijacking following the appointment of a dedicated task team,” Burger said.

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