Hijacking syndicates transport South African vehicles across the border to neighboring countries such as Mozambique, Swaziland, Eswatini, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Talking to ENCAForensic scientist Calvin Rafadi said car smuggling was facilitated by SAPS officers in collusion with border patrols. These officials help the criminals to prepare the necessary documents for passing cars across the border.
The latest crime statistics from the South African Police Service (SAPS) show that between April and June 2022, there were 5,866 thefts across the country, a 14% increase compared to the 5,146 thefts recorded during the same period in 2021.
The year-on-year increase in the number of reported carjackings means that a car is stolen every 22 minutes in South Africa.
Vehicle tracking company Tracker reported a 7% increase in car thefts in the country by volume and a 4% increase in carjackings compared to the previous review period.
“The increase can be explained by increased vehicle use after returning to work and more social activities, as well as new ways of operating by criminals and crime syndicates, such as keyless entry theft,” Tracker said.
Rafadi said the ratio of car thefts to actual car recoveries is very low. Vehicle theft crime syndicates receive an order for a specific type of vehicle; such orders are then carried out by “foot soldiers” based in South Africa.
When a vehicle crosses the border through a regular border post or through a hole in the fence, the syndicates receive money in foreign currency or illicit goods such as chemicals for the production of drugs or tobacco.
He said luxury vehicles or large SUVs are most often smuggled and ordered, while smaller sedans or cars such as the VW Polo sometimes remain in the country and are sold domestically.
The graph below shows the steady increase in the number of kidnappings over a ten-year period:
Deep understanding is provided SABC News found that these syndicates are extremely violent and in some cases kidnap those who may be in the vehicle. Victims’ movements are often tracked so criminals can predict the best time to carjack.
According to an anonymous ex-smuggler, members of the syndicate often carry two identification documents to deceive border guards and deny involvement in the crime.
What is targeted
Fidelity Security Group reported that Toyota and Volkswagen are the most commonly targeted vehicles, and the models targeted include:
- Toyota Hilux
- Volkswagen Polo
- Toyota Quantum
- Nissan NP200
In addition to those mentioned by Fidelity, crime expert Rafadi mentioned the following:
- Toyota Fortuner
- Toyota Etios
- Toyota Yaris
- Ford Ranger
- Ford Figo
- Nissan Navara
When and where
Tracker said car thefts are most common between 4pm and 8pm, Wednesday through Friday. While thefts of driverless vehicles are most common on Saturdays between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
The SAPS said Gauteng is a hotspot for kidnapping in South Africa, with 3,113 between April and June this year. KwaZulu-Natal follows suit with 913, followed by the Western Cape with 754.
Mpumalanga was the only province to see a decrease in hijackings, the SAPS said.
The police service included the following stations in the top 10 kidnapping hotspots:
- Nyanga, Western Cape
- Philippi East, Western Cape
- Harare, Western Cape
- Moroka, Gauteng
- Sandringham, Gauteng
- Midrand, Gauteng
- Voslorus, Gauteng
- Alexandra, Gauteng
- Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal
- Kempton Park – Gauteng
How to prevent
While the level of vehicle theft remains alarming, there are steps you can take to try to avoid becoming a victim, Tracker says. The following tips are provided to help you protect your vehicle:
- If you have a keyless vehicle, get a reliable Faraday bag (also known as a key fob) to store your key fob. Covered with layers of metallic material, this bag helps block the fob’s signals, thus preventing criminals from intercepting the signal.
- If the front of your home and your car are easily accessible, such as in a high-density or clustered residential environment, try to keep the key fob as far away from the access point and location of your car as possible to minimize the possibility of amplifying the key fob’s signal and giving intruders access to your car.
- If your car isn’t securely parked behind a locked gate or in a garage when it’s parked at home, try parking a car that requires a key behind your car without a key to make sure it can’t be driven away without extra effort.
- You may also want to consider deactivating the keyless entry feature.
- Before leaving a parked car, make sure your doors are closed. For cars that require key access, always double-check by lifting the handle when you’ve locked the door – remote locking as a modus operandi continues to gain popularity in criminal circles.
- When parking, choose a well-lit location and, if possible, a location with cameras that monitor the parking area and pedestrian traffic around your vehicle.
- Use the steering lock. Although considered “old school,” they can be effective as a visual deterrent.
- Install the immobilizer. Although many cars have immobilizers installed at the factory, it is advisable to install an additional system.
- Install CCTV to watch your car when it’s parked in your driveway and add a motion detector. Both can serve as a deterrent and provide additional peace of mind.
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