While the release of South Africa’s crime statistics for April 2013 to March 2014 by the National police commissioner caused heated debate from many political and private sector spokespeople, there is no denying the fact that South Africans have many reasons to be concerned about their safety and security.
Carjacking has shown a 12.3% increase from 9 990 incidences in the previous period to 11 221 cases this year. Robbery with aggravating circumstances showed a 12.7% increase from 105 888 to 119 351. The most worrying statistic however is the upward trend in trio crimes (hijacking, house and business robbery) that were pegged at 49 120 incidences this year, which is a 10.8% increase from the previous period’s 44 137. The incidence of trio crimes has almost doubled in the last ten years, with 25 145 cases reported in the 2004/2005 period. It equates to a staggering 134 cases of trio crimes taking place in South Africa, on a daily basis.
“The SAPS crime statistics on hijacking and trio crimes strongly correlate with our internal findings. Incidences of hijacking have risen sharply in the last year,” says Jerry Pierce, Operations Manager at Cartrack. “Some vehicles are stripped for spare parts, others are taken across border into neighbouring countries, while a further significant number of hijacked vehicles are simply relicensed with the aid of corrupt officials and put back on our roads. As long as there is a demand for vehicles on the black market and as long as corrupt officials are fuelling the illegal trade in stolen vehicles, I don’t foresee the crime of hijacking decreasing significantly in our country,” he adds.
The fact that criminals are extending their crimes from driveway hijackings into the homes and businesses of their victims with armed robberies and violent assault is a frightening and increasing trend. “Criminals are no longer satisfied with merely taking a vehicle, but are now actively targeting and assaulting their victims at home or at work, which represents an aggressive and violent invasion of a person’s personal space. Traumatised victims grapple to reclaim a space in which they feel secure as increasingly it seems that nothing and nowhere are beyond the reach of violent criminals anymore,” explains Jerry.
Businesses are increasingly targeted with robbery at non-residential premises, a sub category of aggravated robbery, showing a 13.7% increase in the last year from 16 377 to 18 615 while truck hijackings have increased by 5.1% from 943 incidences to 991 in the last year.
Truck hijackings and the subsequent loss of commercial vehicles and trailers in addition to valuable cargos cost the economy and insurance industry billions each year. “Small fleet operators are particularly hard hit. It is not so much having to replace the vehicle and its cargo, but the reputational damage that comes with it,” explains Jerry. “Clients will often cancel a contract with a fleet operator due to a lack of confidence, which could be a death blow to a small operator, costing them their business and the livelihood of all the staff members employed by the business,” he adds.
Hijacked vehicles that make their way across South Africa’s border into neighbouring countries are often targeted for the illegal spares trade while trucks are targeted for their loads as well as demand for commercial vehicles in neighbouring countries. “The fact that you can wait up to eight or nine months for the delivery of a legitimate vehicle in neighbouring states, further exacerbates the matter. Cartrack has even recovered vehicles as far away as Mombasa, in Kenya, which makes hijacking a crime that is affecting the entire continent,” says Jerry.
Back on local soil, corruption, a lack of transparency and the increasing moral decay of our cultural and social norms and values are not doing South Africa any favours. “A staggering amount of vehicles are uninsured on our roads, which is fuelling the demand for stolen vehicle parts since owners cannot afford to have their cars repaired through legitimate channels. Furthermore, the fact that officials in the traffic and licencing departments have been identified as complicit in the relicensing of stolen vehicles adds a new layer of criminality to the situation. It not only involves the criminals committing these crimes, but the average consumer on the street that supports it,” he says.
The upcoming festive season generally heralds a marked increase in criminal activities.
The importance of having a reliable tracking company that is able to track your vehicle’s movements in real-time, cannot be emphasised enough. “The growing sophistication in terms of the technology employed by criminals as well as the escalating violence involved with such attacks, makes active tracking, monitoring and immediate response crucial when it comes to protecting the lives of the people you love,” says Jerry.
“While vehicle theft and hijacking stats are still very high and a sobering reality of suburban life, we see the growing threat of ‘trio crimes’ of armed robbery, hijacking/theft and assault as deeply concerning and one that requires a more collaborative approach to crime prevention and apprehension of criminals,” he concludes.