Lockdown crime: Car hijackings back to 2019 levels - and the timing of attacks has shifted

Business Insider SA
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  • In April, at the start of the national lockdown, vehicle crime slumped more than 80%, Tracker reports.
  • But by June, hijackings returned to the same level seen last year.
  • While attacks were concentrated on Fridays in the past, attackers are now hitting victims throughout the week, and time of day.
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While during the first part of South Africa’s stringent lockdown, vehicle crime plummeted, there has been a recent surge in hijackings, in particular.

Using data gathered from its 1.1 million installed vehicle base, the vehicle security group Tracker found that in April, the number of vehicle crimes fell by 81% compared to the average monthly rate.

But by May, vehicle crime activities rose to 62% of the average, while in June vehicle crime was close to usual levels at 93%.

Hijackings in particular have surged back to the same levels seen in June last year.

Before lockdown, there was usually a 50/50 split between hijacking and vehicle theft cases among Tracker’s clients. But since the lockdown, this has moved to 56/44 in favour of hijackings. A year ago, the split was 45/55 in favour of theft.

On Friday, the police reported that carjacking rose by more than 13% in the period between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020.

Tracker says its latest data indicates there has been a shift in when hijacking is reported.

A year ago, most hijackings took place on a Friday between 11:00 and 13:00, followed by 20:00 to 23:00.

But Tracker notes that hijacking is now prevalent throughout the week, from Tuesday to Saturday with only slightly less activity on Sundays and Mondays. Hijackings are also reported throughout the day from 11:00 to midnight. Meanwhile theft is mainly reported around the weekend and during lunchtime hours.

“With the latest statistics indicating that hijacking can happen on any day of the week and at any time, it is clear that criminals are taking advantage of opportunistic situations and it is therefore imperative to always remain vigilant,” says Ron Knott-Craig, executive of operational services at Tracker South Africa.

Hostage taking is still a daily occurrence, says Tracker. There has also been a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly food items and fast-moving consumable goods.

Gauteng still experiences the most vehicle crime, with hijackings prevalent in Johannesburg. This is followed by KwaZulu-Natal with Durban in the top spot, and the Western Cape with hijackings mainly occurring in Mitchells Plain. Further hijacking hotspots include eMalahleni in Mpumalanga, Ibhayi in the Eastern Cape, Rustenburg in the North West, Burgersfort in Limpopo, Bloemfontein in the Free State and Dikhing in the Northern Cape.

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