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HomeFeaturesHijacking trends reverse in South Africa – Rise to unsustainable levels

Hijacking trends reverse in South Africa – Rise to unsustainable levels

Criminals in South Africa have moved away from the theft and hijacking of older, low-value vehicles with limited security technologies to targeting expensive bakkies and SUVs, according to Santam, the country’s largest insurer.

Between 2019 and 2022, Santam saw a six-fold increase in claims for high-end SUVs, which was “totally unsustainable” and forced the insurer to decide between increasing its premiums accordingly, or requiring clients living in high-risk areas to take additional safety precautions by installing one, sometimes two tracking devices in their vehicles, said Santam’s Thabo Twalo in an interview with eNCA.

While he didn’t name any specifics, Twalo further said that older methods for stealing vehicles are gaining popularity once more, in addition to the more high-tech techniques that criminals have come up with in recent years such as key-jamming attacks.

Key jamming is when a criminal uses a sophisticated device to interfere with the signals between a key fob and the vehicle, resulting in the car failing to lock its doors when the owner presses the lock button on the key fob, allowing easy access to the thieves once the owner has left.

Unexpectedly, however, previous-generation technologies such as trackers that rely on GSM communication standards have “fooled the criminals” in some instances and foiled their plans to take a vehicle, said Twalo.

Military-grade signal jammers confiscated from suspected car thieves. Source: SAPS

Stolen vehicles a popular export product

Twalo said that stolen vehicles are “quite sought after outside of South Africa so a lot of them actually end up outside our borders, which probably explains why the incidents of crime have gone up significantly.”

Further to this point, Santam’s latest Insurance Barometer Report highlighted that the insurer has seen a concentration of incidents in “geographic areas that are close to border crossings.”

The insurer noted that where vehicles were previously the most often stolen or hijacked in Gauteng, these crimes have now permeated into areas such as KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, from where they exit South Africa into Sub-Saharan African territory.

Data from car-tracking company Tracker indicates that approximately R4.9-billion worth of stolen vehicles are illegally exported from South Africa each year.

Mozambique authorities have also emphasised the issue, stating in March 2023 that it is actively working with the South African Police (SAPS) to remove stolen vehicles from Mozambican roads and repatriate them to South Africa.

Mozambican Minister of the Interior, Arsénia Massingue, said the country is concerned with mob attacks on Mozambican vehicles that cross the border into South Africa and that it is investigating methods to end these assaults.

The SAPS confirmed in February that a wave of vandalism against vehicles arriving in South Africa from its North-Eastern neighbour is in retaliation for the theft of vehicles from South Africa that are taken to Mozambique, as per Club of Mozambique.

According to the SAPS, the population in the regions of Umhlabuyalingana and Hlabisa complain that they are being terrorized by the rapid expansion of car theft syndicates in these areas.

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