Vehicle theft increasing

2015-05-13 06:00
JOHN EDMESTON, global chief executive officer of Cartrack Holdings Ltd.
 Photo: Supplied

JOHN EDMESTON, global chief executive officer of Cartrack Holdings Ltd. Photo: Supplied

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CRIME rates in South Africa are expected to continue their upward spiral as economic and social conditions deteriorate – a trend that can already be seen in the sharp increase in truck and car hijackings.

As economic growth contracts, unemployment figures grow and regard for the rule of law diminishes. Vehicle tracking and recovery provider Cartrack says this will drive up theft and hijackings of vehicles, trucks and cargos for sale in the illicit local and cross-border markets.

Approximately 50% of stolen and hijacked vehicles are disposed of within South Africa, 30% are exported to other countries, and 20% find their way into chop shops and the second-hand parts market. As long as cash-strapped consumers are prepared to look the other way, criminal syndicates will continue to operate and flourish.

“Official crime statistics show a 12,3% increase in carjacking to 11 221 reported cases, while our own truck hijackings stats increased by 16% in the last financial year, which aligns with similar figures released by the Road Freight Association,” says John Edmeston, Global chief executive officer of Cartrack Holdings Ltd.

“The association reported 1 150 truck hijackings across the industry during the same reporting period. The escalation is rapid and significant.

“Anecdotally, we have always seen a trend whereby vehicle crimes increase during times of economic stress, but now more reports show a direct correlation between crime rates and economic and social conditions.

“Both car and truck hijackings are generally perpetrated by organised crime syndicates, thus the hijacking increases also suggest that organised crime is on the rise in South Africa.”

According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Monitoring the Impact of Economic Crisis on Crime, crime peaks during economic crises. The incidence of robbery may double, and homicide and motor vehicle theft also increase, according to the report. Using data recorded by police in 15 countries on the incidence of robbery, homicide and car theft, the report focuses on the possible effects of economic stress. In eight of 11 countries undergoing economic upheavals, a link between economic factors and crime could be established.

“Our own experience and the findings of the report are consistent with criminal motivation theory, which suggests that economic stress causes an increase in criminal behaviour. In fact, past experience shows that during the financial crisis of 2008-’09, truck hijackings in South Africa soared by 61% when compared with South African Police Service stats for 2006-’07. During the recovery years of 2011-’12, the incidents fell by 42%.

“Nevertheless, I think we have to come to terms with the fact that crime, particularly organised crime, is an industry in itself and will thrive regardless of economics in an environment where controls and consequences are inadequate.”

Various studies also state that there are many other factors that drive this trend. Among these are the presence of youth gangs, drugs, alcohol consumption and the availability of firearms.

Exacerbating this, the perceived or real high levels of corruption, instability in our law enforcement agencies along with perceived low criminal prosecution rates, play a role in bolstering crime because criminals believe they can act with impunity

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