SA under siege: It's business as usual for hijackers despite 4 months of lockdown
JOHANNESBURG - Regardless of whether you're popping out to the shop for a quick essentials run, or if you're on your way to work and back on a regular basis during the national lockdown, you are warned to be vigilant.
“We can confirm that hijackings have certainly increased in line with the 13.3% figure shown in the crime statistics that were recently released. Hijackers are back in business and they are operating freely, as they were pre-lockdown. To prevent becoming another statistic, we recommend being extra cautious when leaving your home no matter what the reason may be,” says a spokesperson for DialDirect, Bianca De Beer.
Between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, 18 162 motorists were hijacked in South Africa while 2 384 trucks saw a similar fate.
Managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, urges drivers to take cognisance of these stats: “It is particularly concerning in the Covid-19 environment. Crime is only expected to get worse as the unemployment rate grows. Job losses and fewer opportunities may result in people becoming desperate for an alternative source of income."
Explosive increase in vehicle crime expected
“Even being as vigilant as possible may fall by the wayside as people focus on sanitising their hands and vehicle when they climb into their cars rather than driving off as soon as possible. For others, a changed way of life as a result of lockdown may result in people becoming careless and complacent. During the coming months, however, we strongly advise motorists to step up their awareness of their surroundings,” Herbert advises.
He adds that keeping your eyes and ears alert to what's actually happening around you in a mall parking lot or at your gate is particularly important as crimes of opportunity increase: “Those turning to crime as a result of desperation, are not ‘career criminals’ and more likely to seize an opportunity when they see it. This also creates quite a volatile situation. The hijacker is likely very nervous and may make a rash decision. If you do find yourself in this situation, rather comply and do not make them more nervous."
De Beer corroborates: "Remain calm and whatever you do, do not argue with the hijackers. Also, try not to make sudden gestures and avoid eye contact, but try to remember what the hijacker looked like by identifying and remembering special features if you can. It's always better to comply with the hijacker's directions (within reason) or try and get away from the area as quickly as possible. Most importantly, don't be a hero – your life is worth more than your car."
How to avoid becoming a hijack victim in South Africa
“If you are in the habit of sanitising your hands as you get in the car, as we all should be, be sure to look around you first and be aware of the current situation. If you feel unsettled, rather sanitise when you arrive home. If you avoid habits such as touching your face, you can safely delay hand sanitising until home. Don't, however, skip sanitising the car in this instance because you could have now spread the virus to your steering wheel, seatbelt and gear shift lever among other spots such as the radio and handbrake if it was on your hands,” Herbert says.
Consider these 6 things to avoid being hijacked in SA:
1) Stay alert as it's easy to get distracted. Make sure you keep your eyes on the road and your surroundings to ensure you aren't being followed.
2) If you think that you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station or petrol station. Don't go home.
3) If and when possible, invest in an electric gate at your home. The majority of hijackings and home invasions in South Africa occur just as you are entering or leaving your home and having a well-lit driveway and an electric gate (that can switch to a battery during power failures) might make a key difference in whether you become a victim or not.
4) Always aim to leave enough room between your car and the one in front to avoid being boxed in at intersections and stop streets.
5) When driving home alone, always phone ahead to give a relative, your spouse or partner your expected time of arrival.
6) Know your neighbours and the cars they drive. This will help to identify any dodgy people or vehicles in your area.
"As we all know, prevention is better than cure, but in order to prevent a hijacking, one needs to be equipped with the correct information and knowledge. Remember that the greatest weapon in a hijacker's arsenal is not his gun, but the belief that it won't happen to us. Hijacking is a reality and you need to be prepared for this horrific eventuality,” concludes De Beer.