With more cars back on the road, hijackers are seizing the opportunity by pouncing on unsuspecting motorists. Dialdirect has seen a significant spike in hijackings and urges South Africans to be vigilant.
“Hijackings are unfortunately a prevailing part of our crime story, with over 30 000 hijackings of motor vehicles, including trucks, taking place in a single year,” says Bianca de Beer, spokesperson for Dialdirect. “Our claims data shows that hijackings have increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020.”
Richard Brussow, director of the National Hijacking Prevention Academy (NHPA), has been investigating hijackings for 21 years and recently shared their findings from an in-depth analysis of hijackings that took place between August 2019 and July 2020.
Some key findings of the report when it comes to hijacking trends are:
- When: Hijackings occur every day of the week, but peak on Fridays. More hijackings occur from 12:00 midday, peaking at between 16:00 and 20:00.
- Where: Hijackers prefer spots where vehicles are moving slowly or stationary – ideally spots where there are easy escape routes – with most hijackings taking place in residential driveways. Other hotspots include traffic signs or intersections, the side of the road (when the driver stops to answer the phone, for example), schools, filling stations, parking areas and places where passengers are picked up or dropped off.
- How: Pistols and revolvers are mostly used, with a smaller percentage of hijackings involving high calibre guns, knives and even bare hands. Hijackers’ modus operandi typically includes the following methods:
- Boxing in: Choosing spots where victims can’t escape easily.
- Forced stop: Using vehicles to force the victim off the road.
- Follow the leader: Following victims from busy public spaces to quieter spots.
- Test drive: Posing as potential buyers of advertised vehicles who’d like a test drive.
- Blue light: Posing as police or traffic officials.
The NHPA and Dialdirect provide the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Anywhere, any time. And yes, it CAN happen to you – Stats 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.
- Back to basics: These are seemingly obvious safety practices that are often neglected: Know your neighbours, keep your driveway free of places where perpetrators can hide and ensure its well-lit. Remember to lock doors when driving.
- Roadmap – Plan your route carefully to avoid driving at unsafe times, through unsafe areas, or coming to a stop / driving slower, and thus becoming an easier target. Alternate your habits and routes to avoid being a predictable target.
- 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.
- Guard up at the gate:
- Automatic gate: If possible, stop in the road, parallel to your gate, giving yourself an escape route. Once the gate is fully open, turn in and stop your vehicle just on the inside. Wait for it to close behind you before proceeding to park. You want to avoid being followed into your property, as a hijacking could turn into a house robbery.
- Non-automatic gate: Stop right in front of the gate. Check if it’s safe before exiting your vehicle. Leave the key in the ignition and engine running, open and close the door so that, in the event of an attack, the perpetrator does not have to approach you to take the vehicle. Move as swiftly as you can.
- Stop smart: Time your approach to traffic lights in such a way that you don’t have to come to a complete stop. When stopping behind a vehicle at a traffic light / stop sign, make sure you can see its rear tyres touch the road surface. This will make it more difficult to be boxed in and give you enough space to escape, if needed. Also move swiftly when pickup up or dropping off passengers or goods.
- Smash & grab: Keep your phone and other valuables out of sight. Thieves and hijackers often “window shop” before striking. Avoid driving with windows wide open.
- Bump from behind: In the event of your vehicle been given a light bump from behind, do not exit immediately. If the bump wasn’t hard enough to damage your vehicle, and you feel that there might be a threat, indicate to the vehicle behind you to follow you to a place of safety (filling station, police station) to exchange information.
- Beware of bogus police: If you are followed by a vehicle with a blue light and you it’s best to reduce your speed, switch on emergency lights and indicate that they must follow you (your intentions must be very clear and understandable). Stop where you feel safe, e.g. nearest police station. Do not drive home.
- Car jamming: Perpetrators use jamming devices to interfere with the locking system of your vehicle with the intention to steal your valuables, or worse. When leaving your vehicle, make sure the doors are locked before walking away. When returning, lock the doors as soon as you’ve entered and don’t rely on the vehicle to lock automatically.
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 and to 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 constent.
- If you have a child in the vehicle during an attack, you may want to reach through between the seats to retrieve your child, or 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.
“Knowing how to reduce your chances of being hijacked – and exactly how to react if you are – could quite literally be the difference between life and death,” De Beer concludes. “Comprehensive vehicle insurance covers the things that can be replaced, but being thoroughly prepared and vigilant goes a long way in protecting those that can’t.”