While hijacking is often described as a ‘crime of opportunity‘ in South Africa, motorists have also been warned that they risk being followed home from shopping centres and other public places, in order to be robbed of their possessions.
Speaking to BusinessTech, Agnieszka Gryn, regional executive at Fidelity ADT, explained that ‘spotters’ are often used in these areas to identify people withdrawing large sums of cash from ATMs.
She noted that they often target shoppers who wear expensive watches and jewellery – and that they are mostly looking for cash, jewellery and cars when selecting someone to hijack.
“One can be a target anywhere but most commonly at shopping centres, schools and airports and in your own driveway,” she said.
How to avoid becoming a target
Gryn said that it was important to be alert at all times and never get distracted by mobile phones or kids in the car.
“Regularly check in your rear view mirror and around you if stopped at a stop street or robot, for any suspicious vehicles. Remember there could be more people involved than just the ones following you,” she said.
Gryn added that technology has made it possible for multiple people to communicate and talk about your moves.
“If the one stops, another may just take over from them, so don’t let down your guard and get distracted. They will probably drive past you a few times, then change lanes and fall back again when you least expect it.”
Other tips include:
- Make sure you have an emergency number on your phone, you need to know who you want to phone in an emergency and dial that number immediately.
- If possible let somebody know that you are being followed and try and give them as much information as possible. Ask them to alert 10111.
- Try to keep as calm as possible and stay focused on getting to a safe place
- Do not try and communicate with that vehicle in any way
- Slow down – it is harder to follow somebody that is driving slowly but just keep moving
- Turn your radio down so you are fully aware of your surroundings.
- Put your headlights on bright and put your hazards on, day or night as you want to attract as much attention as possible and scare away the would be hijackers.
- Do not go home – don’t show them where you live
- Head for a busy place if possible like 24-hour garages, hospital, police station etc where it is more difficult to follow you in and where there may be surveillance cameras.
Travelling from the airport
Gryn noted that returning South Africans and tourists are increasingly being followed when leaving from the airport.
As such she said that it is important to use reliable and reputable transfer services (preferably someone who is trained in defensive driving), and to drive to the nearest police station or security point if you believe you are being followed.
“Do not carry large sums of cash or flashy/expensive jewellery when travelling,” she said.
“If this cannot be avoided, be sure to keep it hidden and in a safe place while disembarking, collecting your luggage and finding your transport at the airport.”
Gryn added that when arriving at a hotel or residence, drivers need to practice the following hijacking prevention tactics:
- If you suspect you are being followed, put your indicator on and slow down at least two to three houses prior to your destination. If you are being followed, you will force the vehicle behind you to pass and this could cause the criminals to lose interest.
- If you need to stop in your driveway to manually open the gate, 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.
- Always make sure you can see the back wheels of the car in front of you when you stop in the traffic. This gives you enough room to manoeuvre and escape.
- Don’t fall for the “tap tap” trap where a driver taps the back of your car in traffic. They often use lady drivers as decoys here. Never get out of your car on the scene to assess the damage but rather drive to a busy location. Signal to the other driver to follow you. If it is not legitimate they will seldom follow you.
- If you stay in a secure complex with security guards, do not be fooled into thinking you are safe. You can easily be followed into your complex so always remain vigilant. Research shows that most people relax the closer they get to home and this is often when they are most vulnerable.
“Staying alert is probably the most important tip. Too often we are distracted which makes us vulnerable to criminal activity,” she said.