Vehicles are linked to just about every crime committed, whether it’s a cash-in-transit robbery, hijacking or drug peddling.
The high rate of vehicle theft has resulted in captains of industry, investigators and law enforcement agencies meeting recently to network and stay ahead of criminals who have also resorted to using cyberattacks to steal vehicles.
Hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal branch of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI), a non-profit organisation, representatives from law enforcement entities, the National Prosecuting Authority, security companies, the government, vehicle manufacturers, banking, insurance and other corporations met over three days earlier this month to exchange ideas.
The IAATI is aimed at providing a global approach to vehicle theft and kindred crimes deterrence, investigation and recovery.
To keep stakeholders in the loop, three training seminars are held annually, and information exchange sessions are hosted at various times in different regions during the course of a year.
Vic Chitanand, IAATI’s vice-president, said his organisation was about equipping and developing those with a passion to solve vehicle crime.
“A key objective is to get people investigating vehicle crime interactive because the acts of criminality are dynamic and constantly changing. We focus on the latest technology and happenings in the industry and we provide training. A vehicle is always central to most acts of crime and nine times out of 10, the vehicles used are illegitimate,” said Chitanand.
He said they worked with the NPA and it has yielded good convictions.
Leneshri Moodley, who together with her colleagues at the KZN Department of Safety and Community Liaison, handle complaints about underperforming police officers, said their core mandate was to monitor the 184 police stations and police officers in the province.
She said they had 13 district offices in KZN, which came about through the foresight of Willies Mchunu when he was at the helm.
During her address, Moodley said it was her department’s duty to know how investigations were being handled.
With IAATI running training programmes for detectives, she said it was valuable to know, because they could make recommendations to the provincial commissioner and other heads of police about underperformance issues.
“Many cases are withdrawn because police officers failed to work efficiently. In withdrawn cases, there are always victims of crime left stranded.”
Govender encouraged victims complaining about poor police performance to approach their offices for assistance.
“If we find police were reckless or negligent then we make various recommendations.”
She said they had oversight on specialised SAPS units, including the theft unit, and they also did outreach work with communities, where useful information gleaned from IAATI conferences gets shared.
Muzi Dladla, an executive manager for stakeholder engagement at Sasria, the organisation providing risk cover for assets, was also a speaker.
“There is a big problem with trucks torched, especially on the N3. We wanted to team up with IAATI, with the view that we could get more intelligence on what is happening on the ground and partner with the SAPS to combat that.”
Dladla said the networking opportunity with stakeholders enabled Sasria to gather more intelligence and direct resources to appropriately combat crime.
“Our interest is also in communities, why they get involved in riots, why it escalates to violence and what can we do to minimise the impact.”
He said such partnerships and investing in communities was a way to minimise damages.
Dladla said claims arising out of the July 2021 riots totalled R32 billion, of which R31bn was paid and the balance was being worked on.
Anand Pather, the vice-president of Toyota’s after-sales division, got to share how he became a victim of a hijacking at a hot spot.
He was held hostage for six hours while the robbers plundered his bank accounts.
Pather said he was grateful he survived the ordeal.
What he took out from the subsequent events was the amount of red tape around investigations and policing.
He also questioned why police were not able to nullify a hijacking hot spot.
“I didn’t want to point fingers, there are many skilled people but everyone seems to be working independently.”
Therefore, Pather appreciated the value of the conference for his line of work.
Through networking, they gained valuable insight and ideas, which enabled his company to improve safety features on the vehicles they produced.
Pather spoke about hi-tech equipment that was being sold over the internet, which criminals were using to steal vehicles.
“We have implemented measures to curb criminal cyberattacks.”
Pather said they would not be blasé about what they have achieved but constantly aimed to be steps ahead of criminals.
Lebogang Gaoaketse, WesBank’s head of marketing and communication, said: “We found great value in attending the recent IAATI conference, which provided a unique platform for professionals in the auto theft and fraud risk management industry to connect.
“We got to contribute to the collective industry knowledge, strengthen our defences against auto theft and fraud.”