As we approach the end of the year, it is once again necessary to be more diligent and aware than normal when it comes to crime, warns the South African Insurance Crime Bureau (SAICB). “People are either more relaxed at this time of the year and are not as diligent, or they are simply in a rush and not paying enough attention to the risk of criminal activity,” says Hugo van Zyl, COO of the SAICB.
The SAICB warns to be on the lookout for ‘car jamming’, ‘fender bender carjackings’ (not as prevalent in South Africa), ‘violent house robberies’ to get vehicle keys and expensive possessions, and ‘airport followings’.
In the first type of crime, ‘car jamming’, criminals continue to prey on people preoccupied at shopping centres, remote jamming their vehicles and helping themselves to the contents of the vehicle. “At this time of year, Christmas shopping and holiday luggage could be rich pickings. Do not think that because you are on holiday, parked next to the beach or in a coastal shopping centre, that criminals have also taken leave. This is an easy and effective opportunity for them to relieve you of your valuables,” says van Zyl.
In the ‘fender bender’ type crime, the criminal will cause an ‘accident’ doing minimal damage to the target’s vehicle and as the victim exits the vehicle the criminal either uses a weapon to take the keys, or simply gets in and drives off.
“This is a trend we have seen in the United States and Europe. In our society we need to be aware of these schemes,” says Mr van Zyl. “Therefore be aware of your surroundings if you have a fender bender. Remove your keys from the car if you exit the vehicle. If for whatever reason you are not comfortable with the circumstances of an accident and there are no injuries, drive directly to the nearest police station, or densely occupied area to try ensure your safety as far as possible.”
“Regarding household security, do not be lax. Ensure that you follow the same security procedures as you would normally during the year. Be aware if your neighbours are away, so that if you hear activity next door you can react appropriately. Test your alarms and armed response to be prepared.”
The SAICB and SAPS have noted a distinct upturn in the number of ‘airport followings’ over the last few months. This is where spotters at the airport, in either the arrivals lounge or various car parking areas, identify you as a target. They may then follow you home, and rob you at gun point or in some reported cases they will use a blue light to get you to stop on the highway. Always be aware of your surroundings and available options.
“If you are not comfortable stopping for a blue light, then try to proceed to the nearest police station or draw attention of other law enforcement officers in the area. When entering your residence always be aware of possibly being followed. Even if entering a secure estate environment criminals are not scared to use the minute or two that you stop at security to strike.”
“All these crimes rely on the victims being distracted, relaxed and generally not being diligent and aware of the situation. It is the advice of the SAICB to be vigilant in all your day-to-day movements. It is this time of year that opportunistic crime escalates,” says Mr van Zyl.