• Car theft was down sharply in the second half of 2020, new data from Tracker shows, but lockdowns did not have as much effect on hijackings.
  • Hijacking is more prevalent than theft – and there is a "noticeable" increase in vehicles targeted for the loads they carry, Tracker says.
  • Both hijacking and theft remain more likely from the middle of the week onwards.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Lockdowns had an impact on vehicle crime, data released by Tracker on Tuesday shows, but much more so for vehicle theft than for hijacking.

Compared to 2019, vehicle theft across South Africa decreased by an average of 21% in the second half of the year, Tracker said. By contrast, hijackings were down only 5%.

In total, vehicle crimes were down 13%, as South Africans moved around less. 

South African cars are more likely to be hijacked than stolen, by a small margin, numbers across the 1.1 million vehicles with Tracker units show.

“The slant towards hijacking is most likely an opportunistic tactic, with a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly fast-moving consumable goods,” Tracker said. “Drivers carrying large amounts of cash are also being targeted.”

The pandemic did not change much in terms of the geographic breakdown of crime: Gauteng is still the most likely place for cars to be stolen and hijacked, followed by KwaZulu-Natal, and then the Western Cape. 

Hijackings are more prevalent in Johannesburg, and theft is more prevalent in Tshwane. Similarly, car theft is more likely in central Cape Town, while hijacking is more likely in Mitchells Plain. 

Both hijacking and theft is less likely to occur on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, Tracker's data shows. Thefts typically happen between 11:00 and 15:00 between Wednesday and Saturday, while hijackings are most common on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, between 16:00 and 20:00.

Tracker H2 2020
(Tracker)

Outside the biggest metros, hotspots for hijacking between July and December 2020 were:

  • eMalahleni in Mpumalanga
  • Motherwell in the Eastern Cape
  • Rustenburg in the North West
  • Dennilton in Limpopo
  • Bloemfontein in the Free State.

And beyond the biggest cities, theft hotspots were:

  • eMalahleni in Mpumalanga
  • Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape
  • Rustenburg in the North West
  • Polokwane in Limpopo
  • Bloemfontein in the Free State
  • Kimberley in the Northern Cape.

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