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Hijackings at Business and Residential Complexes – Tips to be Better Prepared

  • 5 min read

Recent incidents like the hijacking of a Mercedes-Benz at a residential estate in Midrand and an attempted hijacking of a Land Rover in Morningside, places the spotlight on hijackings at access gates – a prevalent trend in South Africa.

Insurer Dialdirect urges property owners, managing agents, trustees, guards, tenants, residents and visitors to be vigilant and has compiled some crucial golden rules to follow.

A recent in-depth analysis by the National Hijacking Prevention Academy (NHPA) revealed that hijackers prefer spots where vehicles are moving slowly or stationary – ideally spots where there are easy escape routes. Driveways to business and residential complexes fit this bill perfectly.

“Dialdirect recently noted an alarming 20% increase in hijackings, with as many as 30 000 hijackings having taken place in SA in a single year,” says Bianca de Beer, from Dialdirect. “That moment when you stop to key in a pin at the gate or pause briefly to look for your remote or staff access card, it opens the door for a hijacker to pounce. A couple of seconds is all it takes.”

Security service provider, Vision Tactical, reports that hijackers are stepping up their game:

According to their Communications Manager, Mohamed Ameen Dabhelia: “With life slowly returning back to normal, there are more cars back on the road and hjiackers are definitely seizing the opportunity by pouncing on unsuspecting motorists. In many cases, people are followed from shopping malls – targeted because they are wearing high valued clothing items and jewellery.”

Dialdirect and Vision Tactical strongly stress the fact that complex security is the shared responsibility of all owners, managing agents, staff and tenants and provides the following guidelines to stay safe:

The right system:

  • A sturdy, swift-moving access control gate that can be closed completely. Consider a secondary boom gate when the access control gate isn’t suitable for many repeated open-and-close cycles.
  • Adequate lighting to illuminate the driveway and road.
  • Observation tools like mirrors that allow a view of the gate, driveway and road.
  • A rigid access control system with secure codes, secure remotes, intercoms and proper identification for both people and vehicles, including those employed by contractors.
  • Monitoring tools like a multi-angle CCTV systems.
  • panic button system, linked to a reputable armed response company.

The right people:

  • Guards, thoroughly screened and/or working for a reputable security company. In addition to keeping trespassers in check, they should be expected to check the perimeter, make sure the area is clear and then signal for someone to enter or leave the premises. They should have access to panic buttons to alert back up units and law enforcement.
  • Maintenance teams that keep all systems working, the entrance clear and free of spots for hijackers to hide.
  • Community groups, for alerts about suspicious activity / hijacking trends.
  • Neighbours. Know your neighbours, the cars they drive and the basics of their everyday routine. This could help you to tell friend from foe and lend an extra helping hand in a crisis.

Continued vigilance:

  • Anywhere, any time. And yes, it CAN happen to you. Statistics and hotspots aside, it’s wise to always be alert, especially where your vehicle will be moving slowly, or coming to a complete stop. Avoid being distracted and pay careful attention to your surroundings.
  • Don’t advertise. Keep high value items hidden from sight in your car and public spaces.
  • Check the tail. If you suspect you are being followed, make a couple of false turns. If someone is still following you, drive to the nearest police station.
  • Move swiftly. Have your remote, code, phone, driver’s license etc. ready to avoid spending longer at a gate than you have to.
  • Stop smart. If possible, stop in the road, not in the driveway while you wait for a gate to open to give yourself an escape route. Where possible, time your approach so that you don’t have to stop.
  • Hold the gate. When you enter a complex, check to make sure that no one tailgates you and that the gate closes behind you.

What to do if you are confronted by a hijacker:

·         Remember, first and foremost, that your life is worth more than your vehicle.

·         Do not speak too fast and do not make sudden movements.

·         Do not lose your temper, threaten or challenge the hijacker. Do exactly as you’re told.

·         Do not resist, especially if the hijacker is armed. Surrender your vehicle and move away.

·         Do not reach for your purse or valuables. Leave everything in the vehicle.

·         Do not make eye contact with the hijacker. They may perceive this behaviour as a threat.

·         Put your hands up immediately to show you have surrendered.  Use your left hand to unlock the door and use the same hand to undo the seatbelt and put the car out of gear.  With an automatic vehicle, just pull up the handbrake.  When getting out of your vehicle, turn your body sideways, lift your shoulders and use your hands and arms to cover the head / neck area.  Move away from the vehicle immediately.  Keep your hands still and visible to the hijacker, to give them assurance of your passive consent.

·         If you have a child in the vehicle during an attack, you should reach through between the seats to retrieve your child.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you may exit the vehicle and open the door behind you immediately.  Step into the vehicle with your right leg and foot and lean across to retrieve your child. 

·         Gather as much information as possible without posing a threat, such as how many hijackers are in the gang, what they are wearing, number and type of firearms, which language / accent they use and where they drive off to.

Directly following a hijacking:

·         First phone the SA Police Service on 10111. They will dispatch the medical services if needed.

·         Activate the tracking device if the vehicle is fitted with one.

“Remember that hijackers don’t keep office hours and that they’ll bring the fight to wherever you are and that following these guidelines could very well make a life and death difference,” De Beer concludes, “In addition, it’s always wise to have comprehensive vehicle insurance in place in case calamity does strike.”