The increase in the number of car hijackings over the past 8 years shows the importance of driver vigilance, at all times. The comment comes from one of South Africa’s largest armed response companies, in response to recently released crime stats.
In its September report, the SAPS announced that 16 026 incidents had been reported during the 2018/2019 reporting period. This is an increase from a low point in 2011/2012, when 9 417 incidents were reported.
For this past reporting period, most incidents occurred in Gauteng (7 776) followed by KwaZulu-Natal (2 764) and the Western Cape (2 294). Nyanga in the Western Cape had the most reported incidents (273) compared to any other precinct.
“October is Transport Month, a period to renew our focus on all matters relating to transport. It is an ideal opportunity to make sure we are properly prepared and that we know exactly what to do and what not to do, if this should happen to us or our loved ones,” says Charnel Hattingh, National Marketing and Communications Manager at Fidelity ADT.
Vigilance, she says, is a key weapon that people should never neglect.
“Turn your radio off, put your cellphone down, tell the kids to be quiet and concentrate on your surroundings as you drive. Please report anything suspicious to your security provider or the SAPS immediately.”
Hattingh says her company has worked with the National Hijack Prevention Academy in organising training sessions. The sessions looked at comprehensive training and awareness, such as teaching parents that when you have children in the car, the eldest child should be seated behind the driver and the youngest to the left.
“The reason for this is if you are hijacked and need to get out of the car, you can move quickly from the driver’s door to the door directly behind it. You can reach across the eldest child to unstrap the younger child. The eldest child can cling to you as you remove them both together,” she explains.
She advises drivers to wait in the road and not in their driveways if they suspect they are being followed home, especially late at night.
“Wait for any cars to pass you and wait until the car is a far distance away before entering your property. If you have a panic button or a mobile security app, have it on hand just in case. Ask your company if they offer a safe arrival service, so that an armed response officer meets you at home to ensure you enter your property safely,” says Hattingh.
“If you need to stop in your driveway to manually open the gate, remember to always leave the key in the ignition and the motor running unless you have a child in the car. Only then should you take the key with you as you open the gate. The key is a valuable negotiating tool – they want your car and you want your child.”
What do you do if you do find yourself the victim of a hijacking?
“The first and golden rule is to not antagonize the hijackers. You need to show them you are not a threat,” says Hattingh.
“Lift up your arms to show you have no weapon and will surrender. Use your left arm to undo your seatbelt and put your car in neutral. Do not turn off your car, and get out slowly.
“Try and angle your body sideways so you are not facing a firearm head-on. Also remember to protect your head with your arms and avoid direct eye contact with the hijackers but try to take in what they are wearing, the sound of their voices, and any other unique identifying features that could help police later.
“Most importantly, try to remain calm,” she concludes.