The latest crime statistics provided by the South African Police Services is another stark reminder that we live in an unsafe country.
The crime stats revealed that a scary 16 325 carjacking incidents have taken place in South Africa in 2017/2018. While crime may seem unavoidable, it is critical that every citizen takes precautionary measures to reduce the risks in becoming part of these statistics.
This is according to Vera Nagtegaal, the executive head of Hippo.co.za, who says that, while hijacking is a traumatic experience for the victims, everyone should take whatever steps necessary to prevent being exposed to this type of crime.
Avoiding a hijacking
Regardless of where you live, work or socialise, Nagtegaal says it’s always advisable to take preventative action to reduce your risks of being hijacked.
“Always try and reverse park so that you can exit easily – even when you are at home. If you are approaching your car in a public space, have your keys ready so that you are not fumbling and distracted. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid approaching your car alone if there are suspicious individuals or vehicles close by,” she suggests.
When approaching a traffic light, adjust your speed so that you don’t have to come to a complete stop, and always try to leave enough space to the car ahead (the tyres of the car in front of you should be visible) so that you have the room to get away if you are hedged in.
Hijackers often carefully research their victims, so change your route regularly and try not to be too predictable in your timing.
While tracking devices may not always be an effective deterrent, they are extremely successful at assisting in getting your car back after a hijacking. “In fact,” says Nagtegaal, “some insurers will insist that high-risk cars have these devices installed because of the likelihood that the car will be recovered.”
What to do in a hijacking situation
According to Fidelity ADT, there are seven steps to bear in mind when dealing with a hijacking:
- Remain calm
- Do not argue
- Do not make sudden gestures
- Avoid eye contact but try to remember what the carjacker looked like by identifying and remembering special features
- Comply with the hijacker’s directions (within reason)
- Try and get away from the area as quickly as possible
- Don’t be a hero – your life is worth more than your car!
“The golden rule is to not antagonise the hijackers. You need to show them you are not a threat. 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,” says Verena Hulme, Fidelity ADT’s Cape Town North district manager.
She adds that you should 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 as much information as possible, such as what they are wearing, and the sound of their voices. Most importantly, try to remain calm.
Nagtegaal says that if you have a child in your car, hang on to your keys on exit, as they are a valuable negotiating tool. “The hijackers can have your keys if you can get your child out of the car.”
After the hijacking
“If you have been hijacked, it is vital that you report the incident to the police, even if you do not have insurance. If you do have insurance, there is even more reason to make the report,” explains Nagtegaal. “Without a case number, you will not be able to claim.”
“Even if you are traumatised, try to write down everything you remember about the hijacking and the individuals involved, so that you can make as complete a report as possible,” she recommends.
Many insurers also provide trauma counselling for victims of crime, and she says it is advisable that you use this service to help you to work through your ordeal.
“We live in hope that a combination of measures taken by police, security companies and individuals will ultimately result in a reduction in all types of crime, especially hijackings. But while the risk remains high, we all have to be aware and vigilant,” concludes Nagtegaal.