SA faces alarming rise in carjackings – over 5,000 vehicles hijacked in 3 months

In the first quarter of 2023, South Africa experienced a slight decrease in car hijackings compared to the same period in the previous year, but there was a noticeable increase in certain provinces and a rising trend in month-on-month carjackings. The South African Police Service reported a total of 5,119 car hijackings during the three-month period, which translates to approximately 57 cars stolen daily. Specific hotspots for car hijackings were identified in each province. Hijackers primarily employed methods such as driveway hijackings, bogus blue-light cops, the blockage method, the ‘tap tap’ trap, and the good Samaritan tactic. Toyota models, particularly the Polo, Hilux, Etios, Fortuner, and Nissan NP200, were the most targeted vehicles in these incidents. Sedans, hatchbacks, coupes, and bakkies constituted a significant portion of the hijacked cars.


These provinces have seen a big spike in hijackings in South Africa – hotspot areas and cars being targeted

While South Africa has seen a slight decrease in hijackings year-on-year, some provinces experienced a big jump in hijackings – while the month-on-month data shows an upward trend in the number of carjackings.

Presenting the latest quarterly crime statistics for the second quarter of the year – 1 January to 31 March 2023 – the South African Police Service (SAPS) noted that 5,119 cars were hijacked over the three-month period.

This equates to approximately 57 cars being stolen in the country every day.

While 5,119 hijackings in the first three months of 2023 is a decline of 5.2% compared to the same period in 2022, month-on-month data shows that carjackings increased by 14% over the last month of the fourth quarter to 1,842 in March from 1,614 in February.

According to the SAPS, two provinces experienced a notable year-on-year increase (>20%) in hijackings – these being the Northern Cape (37.5%) and North West (23%) – while the Free State toed the line at 19%.

Interestingly, Gauteng saw a 12.4% decrease in carjackings, followed by Mpumalanga (-12.2%) and Kwa-Zulu Natal (-1.9%), while the Western Cape saw an increase of 7.4%.

Despite the positive stats for Gauteng, carjackings are most prevalent in South Africa’s most populous regions, such as Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, and the Western Cape.

Gauteng saw 2,573 hijackings, representing 50.3% of all carjackings in Q4 2022/23. Kwa-Zulu Natal experienced 859 carjackings, and the Western Cape saw 624.

Looking at more granular station data, though, the Western Cape has the most hijackings per region, with Nyanga in the province having the most cases – and seeing an increase of 93.3% over the last year.

In Gauteng, Jeppe has the highest reported cases, though Vosloorus has seen a considerable increase, with the number of cases more than doubling.

The top five hijacking hotspots for the three most populated provinces are listed below.

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Gauteng:

  1. Jeppe
  2. Moroka
  3. Midrand
  4. Sandringham
  5. Orange Farms

Kwa-Zulu Natal:

  1. Umlazi
  2. Mariannhill
  3. Ntuzuma
  4. Inanda
  5. Bhekithemba

Western Cape:

  1. Nyanga
  2. Harare
  3. Philippi East
  4. Lingelethu-West
  5. Samora Machel

Trends to watch out for 

Fidelity Services group CEO Wahl Bartmann also noted that hijacking cases had eased slightly within the group’s footprint 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.

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These are driveway hijackings and bogus blue-light cops. These are especially true for truck hijackings, said Bartmann.

Victims are easy targets in their driveway as they wait for the gate to open or close, allowing criminals to box them in when entering or exiting their property.

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.

To avoid bogus blue-light cops, 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.

Other notable trends flagged by Cartrack and used by hijackers include:

  • The blockage method – Hijackers ambush unsuspecting motorists or even delivery persons in drive-throughs of fast food establishments, where they have little room for escape and are forced to comply with demands. There are usually two vehicles involved. One car will be in front of a motorist, and another car will be behind them to block them from reversing. Armed suspects from the vehicle in front will try to force the motorist out of their car and then make a getaway.
  • The ‘tap tap’ trap – Criminals will deliberately drive into or ‘tap’ the back of your car in traffic. Motorists are then hijacked when they get out of the vehicle to assess the damage; and
  • The good samaritan – Perpetrators convince targets that something is wrong with their vehicle at traffic lights, and they are then hijacked when they get out of the car to see what’s ‘wrong’ with the vehicle.

Concerningly, Bartmann added that kidnappings – drivers being taken along with the car – continue to feature in some hijacking incidents.

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Targeted 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:

  • VW Polo – accounting for 8.6% of reported thefts;
  • Toyota Hilux (6.8%);
  • Toyota Etios (4.8%);
  • Ford ranger (4.9%);
  • Toyota Fortuner (4.6%); and
  • Nissan NP200 (4.2%)

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.

This trend of targeting popular hatchbacks and bakkies highlighted by Fidelity ADT is also evident in the SAPS report, which showed that Sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes accounted for 2,480 of the vehicles hijacked, followed by bakkies with accounted for 1,493.

These vehicle segments represented 48.5% and 29.2% of all the hijacked cars in the first three months of 2023.

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This article was first published on BusinessTech and is republished with permission.

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