The crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) reveal that one vehicle is hijacked every 32 minutes. Knowing how to avoid and react to a hijacking could be life saving.
Hijacking remains a serious threat to South African motorists, and sophisticated syndicates have found lucrative markets for stolen vehicles. The simple fact of the matter is that if you haven’t been the victim of this type of crime already, you may quite easily become another statistic.
If there’s a silver lining to the dark cloud, however, it’s that hijackers are generally more interested in your vehicle than they are in you and your children. Here’s a quick reminder as how to, firstly, avoid the situation, and secondly, minimise the chance of any injury to yourself or your kids.
- The overwhelming majority of hijackings occur in people’s driveways. This is to say that you are most vulnerable when waiting for your gate to open.
- Be alert when in your own neighbourhood, and check to see if any car seems to be following you – if you’re unsure, simply drive around the block, but take note of the car make and licence number. Additionally, be wary of unusual vehicles parked in the street, especially if they have occupants in them.
- Don’t make yourself a soft target: if you pull into your driveway before the gate is fully opened, it’s easy to become boxed-in if another vehicle drives up behind you.
- If you have to open you gate yourself, leave the key in the ignition when you exit the vehicle unless you’re driving with children: then the key can ensure that you have time to retrieve them unharmed.
With this in mind, however, syndicates are often looking for a specific vehicle, and they will do their best to obtain the one they want – including impersonating the police. This is why you have to know how to act.
- If you remember anything, remember this; co-operate. Don’t think of driving off.
- First you exit, then you quickly but calmly remove your kids. Hijackers would prefer that you get your kids out in order to avoid the hijacking becoming a priority crime – which draws unwanted attention.
- Use your left hand to remove your safety belt whilst holding your right hand up, signalling surrender. Leave everything in the car.
- When exiting, keep your eyes down and try to turn your shoulder to the weapon (with your hands still up). If your key is in your pocket, say so, remove it and hand it over.
- If you are alone try to move away from the vehicle quickly.
- If you have children in the back, say loudly but calmly, “children”, and move to the driver’s side back door.
- It’s good safety practice to have your child seated behind the driver to make his/her exit as fast as possible. This is especially important if the child is in a safety seat.
- If you have more than one child, the eldest should be by the door and the youngest behind the passenger side seat. This allows the elder to cling to you while, with your right hand, you take hold of the younger.
- While removing your kids, place your right foot firmly in the car to both balance yourself and to ensure that, in the event that the vehicle moves, you will fall into it with the kids.
- Once the kids are out, don’t look at the hijacker and move away from the vehicle.
- Don’t shout for help until the vehicle moves off.
Unfortunately, a hijacking is a traumatic event for even the hardiest of characters, including men, which means that some counselling with a professional is not only a good idea, but mandatory – especially for children.
Emergency numbers to keep in your phone:
SAPS – 08600 10111
MTN, Vodacom, Cell C – 112