Hijacking saw an alarming increase of 21% in the past year, according to Tracker. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Hijacking saw an alarming increase of 21% in the past year, according to Tracker. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Hijacking is on the rise and remained prevalent during the Covid-19 lockdown period even with a significant drop in vehicle crime, warns Tracker.

The tracking firm’s July 2019 to June 2020 vehicle crime statistics from its more than 1.1-million installed vehicle base show that hijacking can also happen at any time of the day, any day of the week, and it called on the public to remain vigilant at all times.

The report noted that vehicle crime activities rose nationally by 11% year on year, driven mainly by hijacking with an alarming increase of 21% while theft of vehicles remained at a similar level to the previous year.

The lockdown period reduced vehicle crime numbers to levels last seen decades ago, particularly during level five restrictions, said Tracker. In April, the number of vehicle crime activities nationally declined to only 19% of the average monthly vehicle crime activities.

As the country’s restrictions were lifted vehicle crime activities increased, with May experiencing a three-fold increase to 62% of the average vehicle crime activities, while June was close to usual levels at 93%.

Even with this drastic decrease in vehicle crime, hijacking was more prevalent than theft during lockdown, averaging a 56/44 hijacking/theft split compared to a 50/50 split in the months before lockdown. It is a further increase on the previous year, which saw a 45/55 split in favour of theft. In addition, despite level three lockdown June 2020 hijacking numbers reached the same level as June 2019.

The swing to more hijackings could be partially driven by the increasing sophistication of vehicle antitheft systems, says Ron Knott-Craig, Executive: Operational Services at Tracker SA.

The latest data also indicates there has been a shift in the trend regarding day of week and time of day when hijacking is reported. Hijacking is now prevalent throughout the week, from Tuesday to Saturday with only slightly less activity on Sundays and Mondays. Hijackings are also reported to Tracker throughout the day from 11am to midnight. Meanwhile theft is mainly reported around the weekend and during lunchtime hours.

Hostage taking is still a daily occurrence and remains a huge concern, said Knott-Craig. Further crime trends noted by Tracker include a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly food items and fast-moving consumable goods. Clients are also being robbed of their valuables and in some instance’s large amounts of cash.

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.

Tracker says it recovered 5,447 vehicles, made 819 arrests and recovered 39 firearms between July 2019 and June 2020.

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