What to do if your family is in a hijack situation

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How to act in a hijacking
How to act in a hijacking

The recent story of the baby taken while seated in a car hijacked in Observatory, Cape Town, sent shudders of fear through every mother who heard the story. 

While the baby has thankfully been found, every parent wonders what they would do in such a situation.

Must read: Cape Town mom reunited with baby boy after hijackers speed off with him in her car 

Here is some advice from the experts at the National Hijack Prevention Agency (NHPA), who stress that there are no rules as to how you must react during a carjacking.

It is probably more sensible to respond to your instincts and the events as they unfold. No situation or criminal is the same, no criminal’s mood or reaction is the same. It is best to be alert at all times and trust yourself to respond to the circumstances the best you can. 

Nonetheless, they also suggest the following things to remember during a hijacking:

1. ALWAYS remember that no car or possession is more important then you or your families’ lives. Cars and possessions can be replaced, lives cannot.

2. Under NO circumstances lose your temper, argue, threaten or challenge the hijackers. They are nervous to start with, so if you upset them, they might retaliate and hurt you or your family.

3. When you are approached by a hijacker, put your hands up. The perpetrators need to see your hands so they do not feel threatened.

4. Do not make eye contact. This makes the hijackers nervous because they think that you can identify them later.

5. Try to observe as many things that you can without looking directly at the hijacker. It can be useful when you have to describe them to the police later.

6. If you have a baby in a car seat, get out of the vehicle. Keep your eyes averted and tell the hijackers that you are going to take your baby out of the car. It would probably be the most difficult thing you will ever do, but under no circumstances panic or scream at the hijackers. Do not make any sudden or unexpected movements, just move towards the door calmly and open it. Take your baby out and move away from the car as soon as possible.

7. Young children must exit the vehicle with you on the same side and through the same door. Do not get separated. Move away from the car as soon as possible. Older children may exit the vehicle on their own. It is important for you to tell them to stay calm and not argue or shout.

Things you might (or might not) know about hijackings:

A spokesperson for Tracker said that South Africans has a culture of people driving cars they are not able to maintain, so they buy parts on the black market – fuelling thefts and hijackings to supply to this market.

  • The cars most popular to hijack are Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and the Nissan 1400 bakkie.
  • Only 15% of licences cars in South Africa has tracking devices.
  • Most cars are stolen for their parts and dismantled quite quickly after the theft, but many cars are also stolen “on order” from clients.
  • The days of the week that most hijackings occur are Fridays and Tuesdays.
  • The time of the day most hijackings occur are between 16:00 and 20:00 and 04:00 and 08:00
  • The weapon of choice for most hijackers are firearms.
  • Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal has the most incidents of hijackings each year.

What to do next?

How do you go on, after a traumatic event like this? The NHPA has some tips for you too. The following is some general advice to help you cope with trauma in general and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in particular:


  • Express your emotions.
  • Talk about what has happened as often as you need to.
  • Seek trauma counselling.
  • Try to keep your life as normal as possible by following daily routines.
  • Find opportunities to review the experience.
  • Look to friends and colleagues for support.


  • Use alcohol, nicotine or other drugs to hide your feelings.
  • Simply stay away from work or isolate yourself.
  • Seek help and support instead (counselling).
  • Allow anger and irritability to mask your feelings.
  • Hide your feelings and be afraid to ask for help.
  • Think your feelings are a sign of weakness.


Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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