While the number of reported hijacking cases since the start of 2023 has slowed compared to a bleak year in 2022, hijackings are still prevalent in South Africa – with a continued trend of kidnappings in some cases.
Presenting the latest crime figures in February 2023, police minister Bheki Cele said the numbers don’t paint a positive picture for South Africa, as the country has seen crime levels increase nationwide.
Although he said that things are being done to change the situation, one clear area where the police appear to be losing the battle is with hijackings, which were up a staggering 30% over 2022 from levels in 2019, and 15% when compared to 2021.
According to the stats, 23,025 carjackings were reported by the end of 2022, representing an average of 63 vehicles per day. Provincially, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal (KZN), and the Western Cape experienced the most incidences of hijackings.
The report showed that Gauteng experienced 11,626 carjackings in 2022, averaging 31.9 vehicles stolen daily.
KZN was in second with 3,757 cases reported – averaging 10.3 vehicles per day – while the Western Cape reported 3,052 carjackings, averaging 8.4 cars stolen per day.
More positively, compared to the corresponding period in 2022, Fidelity services group CEO Wahl Bartmann said that, within the group’s footprint, hijacking cases had eased slightly in the first three months of 2023.
However, he added that this does not mean hijackings are no longer at alarming levels, as the group highlighted two prevalent hijacking methods that remain popular for car thieves in 2023.
These are driveway hijackings and bogus blue-light cops. These are especially true for truck hijackings, said Bartmann.
Regarding driveway hijackings, Bartmann said if a motorist suspects they are being followed, they should put their indicator on and slow down at least two to three houses before their home.
This will force the vehicle behind them to pass and could cause the criminals to lose interest. It is important not to turn into a driveway and allow criminals to close in or cut off means of escape.
To avoid bogus blue-light cops, meanwhile, Bartmann added that motorists should stay off known routes and highways targeted by these syndicates, especially at night.
If stopped by any cop, the executive recommends that motorists turn their lights on bright and activate their hazards to attract the attention of any passers-by.
A more concerning trend that is emerging, however, is that kidnappings – drivers being taken along with the car – continue to feature in some hijacking incidents.
This would be where a ransom is sought, or a victim is forced to make withdrawals from their bank accounts. Sometimes, the victim may be kept until the criminals have been paid for the person’s release or the account has been drawn out to its limit.
Targeted brands and vehicles
According to Fidelity ADT’s latest statistics, Toyota models remain the most targeted cars in South Africa, accounting for 31.6% of the group’s incidences.
Toyota is followed by Volkswagen (VW) – accounting for 14.1% – and Ford, representing 10.4% of the group’s incidences.
Of these brands, Bartmann noted the following models are high-risk:
Bartmann said that Toyota Prados and Toyota Landcruisers are also among the most popular models for criminals. However, Hilux and Fortuner GD6 models are still preferred.
“These high-risk vehicles are still, to a large extent, destined for neighbouring countries and usually just hijacked to move over the border,” he added.
Given the continued prevalence of highjackings in the country, Bartmann said motorists should invest in the use of technology, such as the Fidelity SecureDrive.
These systems offer real-time tracking where data is literally refreshed every 2 – 20 seconds allowing real-time alerts to mitigate risk and ensure greater safety.
“In the event of a hijacking, victims can press the SOS button on the App, which sends an alert to the monitoring centre for help.
“Alternatively, personal safety applications that turn your smartphone into a personal safety and monitoring system are also recommended. This phone application will enable you to get help whenever and wherever it is needed,” he said.