Vehicle crime in SA: Patterns behind car theft

Johannesburg - The high rate of vehicle theft in South Africa is a cause for concern. National crime statistics reveal that a total of 16 717 cars were stolen from April 2016 to March 2017, up from 14 602 reported in the previous 12 months.

The annual SA Crime Statistics report, released by police minister Fikile Mbalula in October, reveals a 14.5% increase in hijacking. 

Understanding vehicle-theft patterns, and acting accordingly, is essential to avoid becoming another vehicle crime statistic in SA.  

Cartrack South Africa reveals trends and patterns of local vehicle theft. 
Here are a few insights to help road users keep their vehicles safe: 

1 Watch out during weekends

Andre Ittmann, CEO of Cartrack SA, says there has been vehicle theft increase over weekends compared to weekdays: "This trend can be mainly attributed to the fact that there are more vehicles out in public places on weekends. More stationary vehicles result in more opportunities for theft, which means that more active criminals are in operation. As such, extra caution is warranted on weekends."

SA crime statistics by SAPS 2016/2017: Vehicle theft

What do you think can be done to curb vehicle theft in South Africa? Email us.

2 January and November are danger months

Cartrack’s data indicates that there are particularly high volumes of theft in January and November - 13% increase compared to other months.

"There is often strong demand for stolen car parts at these times of year, which results in an increase in the number of stolen vehicles. Motorists should keep their eyes peeled at these times," says Ittmann.

Image: iStock / lcswart

3 Gauteng leads in vehicle crime 
Gauteng is the province most affected by vehicle theft. A significant percentage of vehicles are stolen in Pretoria, with a clear spike in truck theft on the East Rand, and an equally obvious spike in minibus taxi thefts on the West Rand. 

Vehicle theft data by Cartrack:
KZN - 14.39%
Western Cape 4.99%
Free state - 1.35%
Northern Cape - 0.40%
North West  -1.66%
Eastern Cape  -3.51%
Mpumalanga - 5.20%
Limpopo - 3.85%
Gauteng - 64.65%

"This is not a surprising statistic, as Gauteng is South Africa’s most densely populated and economically active province. One also has to factor in the high number of residents and vehicles in the region," notes Ittmann. 

KwaZulu-Natal experiences the second highest volume of vehicle theft, with Durban Central, Westville and Pinetown recognised as the most vulnerable area.  Despite these trends, Ittmann cautions that it’s not advisable to rely on these current trends as a guide to hijacking or theft patterns. 
"It’s important to realise that crime patterns vary and numbers don’t stay steady, so you can’t read too much into regional data. The statistics change and hot-spot areas shift as criminals and the police each alter their behaviour in response to the other." 

What do you think can be done to curb vehicle theft in South Africa? Email us.

4 Awareness is key

Ittmann says that it is critical to take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of vehicle theft: "The decisions you make during the course of your ordinary activities are critical to vehicle safety.  As is often the case, ensuring that you acquire the appropriate information and apply this knowledge in the correct way could mean the difference between being safe or becoming a crime victim.

"Ultimately, it’s important that you are aware of your surroundings and have the appropriate tools to make sensible and informed decisions, which ultimately make all the difference in the world."

14 tips to help avoid a hijacking:

1 When approaching your vehicle, keep your key ready but not visible. Unlock your car when you're close by.   
2 Check the rear seat before getting into your car.
3 A well-maintained car is less likely to break down and leave you vulnerable.
4 Plan your route and let someone know what your route is and when to expect you at your destination.
5 Always check the rear-view mirror to see if you are being followed. 
6 Avoid driving with your windows open and keep the doors locked. Put all valuables out of sight. 
7 Avoid distractions while driving such as using a cellphone.
8 If you suspect you are being followed, drive to your nearest police station or a busy public area.
9 When approaching a red traffic light, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green.
10 Make sure your driveway is well lit and clear of shrubbery. 
11 If possible, park in a central, well-lit place, preferably with guards on duty. 
12 When stopping behind another vehicle, leave half a vehicle length in front so you can make an emergency escape if necessary.
13 Change your routes and your schedule if possible on a regular basis. 
14 Make arriving at your destination safer by calling ahead and asking someone to open and close your gate for you.

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