Even though the 2011 crime statistics from the South African Police Service reveal a 10 percent decline in motor vehicle theft over the past year, the fact remains that a staggering 64 504 cars were stolen and 10 627 were hijacked last year, which equates to approximately 176 cars being stolen and 29 cars being hijacked every day in South Africa.
As a result, new preventative measures, such as vehicle tracking or microdot technology are increasingly becoming a necessity, rather than a luxury.
Utilising new technological advancements and preventative measures becomes even more critical when one considers that car thieves have also become increasingly smarter and faster in the methods they use to steal a car. In recent media interviews with car thieves, who chose to remain anonymous, they advised that it takes between one to five minutes to steal a car - and if they cannot steal it, they will hijack it.
Thieves with their own computer boxes
One of the latest car theft trends involves thieves bringing along their own computer box, which they install on scene within a minute. These boxes enable the criminal to start the car without setting off the immobiliser. Other methods include using a device, such as an Allen key, which is then customised by having one end sharpened to a point, flattened and used to either unlock the car or start it.
Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that these stolen or hijacked vehicles are being bought for anything between R3000 to R30 000, which, in some cases, may be far less than the owner is paying on monthly instalments or even motor insurance premiums.
Unfortunately, even motor vehicle owners who have not suffered the theft or hijacking of a vehicle are feeling the consequences through increased motor insurance premiums as a result of the high rate of motor vehicle theft and hijacking in South Africa.
Incentives to customers
With motor theft becoming easier by the day, some insurance providers have begun to offer incentives to customers that incorporate preventative measures, such as vehicle tracking technology and the incorporation of microdot technology. In fact, microdot technology has become a statutory requirement for all new vehicles registered in South Africa as of 1 September, 2012, in an effort to combat the stolen vehicle parts trade.
Besides vehicle tracking technologies, there are some basic precautionary measures that consumers can implement in an effort to reduce the likelihood of their cars being stolen or hijacked.
Before purchasing a car, it is a good idea for potential buyers to do their homework, as certain makes of cars are known to be more susceptible to theft or hijacking. If the desired car is high on the list of theft or hijacking, consumers should ask their insurance provider whether installing vehicle tracking technology as part of their motor insurance cover may result in reduced premiums or lower excess.
Be aware of high-risk locations
It is also a good idea to be aware of the typical locations for motor vehicle theft or hijacking in order to be on high alert when parking at these locations. Currently, shopping malls are the most popular venue for thieves to steal or hijack vehicles; however events that draw large crowds, such as school sports days or music concerts, have also become venues of choice.
When it comes to parking, motorists should opt to park in well-lit areas and as close as possible to the entrance to their destination. Where possible, it is advisable to park the motor vehicle in line of sight of a CCTV camera, which not only acts as a possible deterrent against theft, but can also assist in indentifying thieves should the car be stolen.
The basic rule is always to be aware of one's surroundings and look out for suspicious people sitting in cars or standing nearby observing the area. If anything looks or feels wrong, it is better to leave or seek help immediately.
By promoting and incorporating the use of vehicle tracking technologies, practising appropriate preventative measures and remaining well informed of the latest criminal trends, consumers and the broader motor insurance industry better the chances of acting against thieves and reducing the number of cars being stolen or hijacked.