Falling victim to a vehicle hijacking is one of the most traumatising experiences a person could go through, and South Africans face this threat each and every day. You've got a gun in your face, you've been caught completely off-guard, and worst-case scenario, you might even have other lives to be concerned about in the moment.
With crime ever on the rise, there are some places, for example, where people believe it’s safer to run a red light at night than to stop. Hijackers have grown more an more courageous now, though, often operating in broad daylight or in plain view of other people.
It’s not just the motorists who need to be on the constant lookout – motorcycle hijackings have seen a sharp incline over the years as well.
You don’t need to search very hard to find these horror stories, and we won't be focusing too much on that aspect today. What we need to be aware of, however, is the statistics.
According to recent crime reports released by the SAPS, no less that 45 vehicles are hijacked each and every day.
So, with the rate of crime largely out of the average citizen's hands, beyond our control, South Africans need to change the way they view self-defence and move beyond anti-hijacking flamethrowers.
We need to learn how to take control of terrifying, life-threatening situations, and by doing so, stand a chance of changing the deadly outcome.
Where the opportunity presents itself, hijackers are waiting to pounce on unsuspecting vehicle owners. Preparing yourself to defuse the situation, or if it comes to it, defend yourself and the ones you love, should rank high on every South African motorist's priorities. There are multiple ways to do the latter, such as taking self defence classes or looking into initiatives such as Woman INPowered.
WIP, as an example, was started by 6th dan karate expert, Mark Grobbelaar, and inspired by a young woman named Alison Botha. Botha was abducted outside of her home by two men in 1994, and after being put through absolute hell, was left for dead with her throat cut. She survived, and has since become a successful motivational speaker, author, and the subject of an acclaimed documentary film, Alison.
Hijacking, today, is a multimillion-rand industry, ranging from meticulously planned jobs to more opportunistic events, and we have to constantly remind ourselves that these people do not care about our lives, or the lives of anybody with us.
While knowing how to handle yourself in these situations could certainly save your life, it is equally important to be able to identify threats, and so avoid them entirely. For that reason, it is crucially important to be aware of hijacking and crime trends in your area, or all across the country.
We’ve often reported on hijacking stats, and we’ve also offered numerous tips on how to protect yourself and your family in the event of such an incident. Be vigilant when finding yourself in the following situations. Always be aware of your surroundings, and be on the lookout for any suspicious behaviour.
Drivers are approached by criminals at petrol stations while filling their tanks. They approach from the driver’s blind spot and force the driver out of the vehicle. Remain vigilant while filling up, especially at night or at quiet petrol stations. Keep your doors locked and only open your window when it’s time to pay. Watch your blind spots at all times.
Approached By Strangers:
Motorists are approached in social areas such as bars or clubs by strangers, who then attempt to befriend them. They then spike the driver’s drink, steal the car keys and vanish with the vehicle. Don’t trust anybody who offers you a drink out of the blue, and ikewise, never accompany strangers who suggest that you leave with them to a different venue.
Blue Light Imposters:
Motorists are pulled over by criminals posing as police or traffic officials. This often occurs with unmarked vehicles kitted out with nothing but a blue light. Upon pulling over, the driver is overpowered and relieved of their vehicle. Many South Africans are unaware of their rights when being pulled over by the police, and it's important to keep the following in mind:
Motorists are legally bound to stop for uniformed officers who pull them over to the side of the road. If you’re unsure, especially in the case of an unmarked vehicle or the lack of uniform, the best course of action is to remain calm, turn on your hazard lights to indicate that you are willing to cooperate, and drive to the nearest police station.
If the officers are indeed genuine officers of the law, they will follow you to the police station.
Vehicle owners are overpowered during a home invasion and the vehicles are taken, along with all of their other valuables. Keep your gates locked, know where your panic buttons are, and keep your vehicle’s keys out of sight and in a safe place.
It goes without saying that we should always be vigilant in South Africa, even in the comfort of our own homes.
Hijackers follow the victim home and will attempt to box the driver in as they enter the property. They will then block the security gate from closing behind them and hijack the victim in their own driveway.
Sufficient lighting at the entrance to your property gives criminals one less place to lurk. Be aware of suspicious vehicles following you, and if you suspect that you are being tailed, make a couple of false turns and, if need be, drive to the nearest police station. Always approach your driveway in a way that makes it easier for you to escape, should another vehicle stop behind you - such as parking in the street while waiting for your gate to open, instead of in the driveway.
Even when driving out on the roads, leave enough space around your car to prevent getting boxed in.
Everything Else You Need To Be Aware Of:
Remember that just because your newer vehicle is more sophisticated, and harder to steal from your garage, doesn't mean that you're safe. In fact, this makes your much-desired vehicle all the more likely to be hijacked instead - while it's running.
Be aware when in public areas such as malls, hospitals, gyms, stadiums, schools and even places of worship. The more crowded, the better. Watch out for signal jamming, and the like, and always make sure that your vehicle is properly locked before walking away. Do not leave any valuables in plain sight, because filthy criminals will smash your windows for as little as a pack of cigarettes.
We've all encountered these people at the traffic lights who point to our wheels or the front of our car, pretending that there's something wrong. Don't be so gullible. In most cases, this is just a ploy to get you to roll down your window so that they can ask you for something, but often enough, it's to get you to get out of your car to inspect the vehicle. Before you know it, there's nothing to inspect. Do not listen to any of these people, or pay any heed to their underhanded methods. If you're unsure of the state of your vehicle, drive away and stop in a safe place to check.
Never, ever drive over anything laying in the middle of the road. Something as innocent as an orange could be loaded with nails, just waiting to burst your tyre.
Plan your routes - and even backup routes - before embarking. Check your car for faults beforehand, and make sure that it is always well-maintained. Always be vigilant, always be alert, never blink, don't even sleep.
We wish we could tell you that the best defence is offence. To fight tooth and nail. Go for the eyes, go for the throat, go for the groin. While this may be your only option for survival in the absolute worst cases, it is generally better to remain calm. The first golden rule – do not antagonize the hijackers.
When pulling into your driveway – if you’re alone, switch the car off and leave the key in the ignition. Open the gate, pull your car in and close it immediately. If you have children in the car, turn the car off and take the key with you. If the worst were to happen, you need the key as a negotiating tool. The criminals want your vehicle. You want your children.
If you're caught completely off-guard, however, sitting there, you'll need to change tactics.
Show the lowlife criminals that you’re not a threat to them. Don’t turn your car off. Use your left hand to unclip the safety belt. Avoid eye-contact with them. Keep your hands in plain sight. Do not go for your handbag or your cubbyhole. Your car, and all the possessions in it, is worth much less than your life. Cooperate with them, within reason, and do not hold on to any valuables. Give them what they want.
Stay calm. If you are hijacked while your children are in the car, climb out of the vehicle slowly and tell the hijackers that you need to take your children out. A single child should always be seated behind the driver. If you have two children, the eldest child should be seated behind the driver and the younger child to the left. Move to the back door directly behind the driver’s door. Place one foot firmly in the car, on the floor behind the driver’s seat. As you lean across to retrieve the youngest child, instruct the eldest child to put their arms around your neck. That way you can remove both children from the car at once.
Try to identify any useful information about the hijackers without staring at them. The make, model, colour or licence plate number of their own car, if they have one. Any distinguishable features. This will help you later on, when you go to the police.
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