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According to the latest police crime statistics, car hijacking has increased by 14.5% across the country. The statistics tell the story of 16 717 cars that were hijacked between April 2016 to March 2017, equating to a staggering average of 46 vehicles hijacked every day in South Africa.
“The key in mitigating crime risk is to be vigilant, understand how and when such crimes are most likely to happen and to take pro-active and preventative measures to mitigate them,” says Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa. “Most hijackings happen in the driveway of its victims so it is absolutely vital to stay alert, especially as we head into the festive season which normally sees an uptick in vehicle theft and hijackings.”
Aon provides the following tips to help you reduce your risk:
· Be observant of your surroundings and cognisant of anything or anyone who looks out of place. If you have any doubts, call your armed response company for assistance and don’t be afraid to ask them to check out any suspicious individuals or vehicles lurking about.
· Be aware of vehicles that remain in your rearview mirror. Many criminals follow their victims home from public places such as a shopping centre, bank or airport. If you suspect you’re being followed, drive to the nearest police station or a busy public area, but don’t stop at home.
· You are most at risk when entering or leaving your property. Turn down the volume on the radio well in advance, get off the phone and be alert. If anything seems untoward when approaching your home, contact your security company for an escort services in and out of your property.
· Never pull into your driveway while you wait for your gate to open – have your gate remote handy and stay on the road while the gate opens, and immediately close it after entering.
· Don’t leave your keys in your vehicle while opening a manual gate and if possible, get someone at home to be ready to open the gate for you when you arrive. Never sit in your parked vehicle without being conscious of your surroundings.
· Keep driveways clear of shrubs, plants and bins that could provide a hiding place for criminals. Make sure the area is well lit so there is no place to hide in shadows or dark corners. Alarm bells should be ringing when your pets do not greet you at the gate upon your arrival.
· If you ever feel uneasy or unsure when approaching your home, drive past your driveway and go to your nearest police station or a safe place and call your security company to check out the area.
· Most suburbs and complexes have Whatsapp groups, radios and other community platforms in place. It is a good idea to join these groups and to be aware of what is going on in your neighbourhood. Vigilance and community support are potent antidotes to criminals who won’t stick around if they know they have been spotted.
· If you are confronted by an armed criminal, follow their directions, stay calm, don’t look at them and don’t try to hide or conceal any items. Remember they are likely to be on edge and stressed, so don’t provide any reason for further provocation. Remember that your personal safety trumps all material possessions which can be replaced.
· Do not try and activate a panic button while you are in a hijacking situation as this could anger a hijacker, who is more than likely already on edge.
· Be observant, should you fall victim to a hijacking situation. The smaller details are essential such as the direction that they came from; the hijacker’s build, gender, body movement, clothing, distinctive marking and any conversation that may have taken place.
“Your ultimate and only objective is to walk away from a hijacking incident physically unscathed, with your loved ones. The vehicle is of no consequence and can be replaced, lives can however not,” says Mandy. “Alert your vehicle tracking company, security company and authorities once you are out of harm’s way,” Mandy urges.
“Your insurance broker is an invaluable source of information on crime trends and the modus operandi in your area. A professional broker will ensure that you are in good hands, that your insurance is perfectly scoped for your needs, and that there are no surprises waiting if you need to claim. Talk to your broker and make sure that you have the knowledge to mitigate your risks, and the right covers in place to ensure that you can recover if things do go wrong,” concludes Mandy.