The Minister of Police Bheki Cele has published the official crime statistics for Q1 2021/2022, with a steep increase in hijackings reported. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has chosen to compare the crime data to Q1 2019 instead of Q1 2020 to account for the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown.
“We cannot compare the same period of this year and last year, due to the skewed and abnormal crime trends, caused by the different levels of lockdown, if we are to understand this crime picture that we are presenting to you today,” Cele said.
“While we will not sweep the high and unnatural figures under the carpet, we will instead bring to the fore a holistic picture of comparing the 2021/22 Q1 crime figures to a ‘normal period’ two years ago where there was no lockdown.”
The report shows that aggravated robberies such as hijacking increased by 92.2% compared to Q1 2019. By comparison, carjacking increased by 13.1% compared to Q1 2020. A notable trend can be seen in the impact of lockdown levels, as the country moved from a level 5 lockdown at the end of March 2020 (394 hijackings) to a level 3 lockdown in June (1,376 hijackings).
A similar trend was seen in the reverse as the country saw a high number of hijackings during its level 1 lockdown in May 2021 (1,775 hijackings), with this dropping to 1,675 hijackings as the country moved down to a level 3 lockdown in June 2021.
Cele described the level 5 lockdown as a ‘crime holiday’ for South Africa.
“The crime holiday is long gone, and these figures should action us and strengthen our resolve.
“The figures as distorted as they are must also sharpen the SAPS operational responses to make South Africa safer for all who live in it.”
Once again, most cases of hijacking were reported in Gauteng (2,704), followed by the KwaZulu-Natal (820) and the Western Cape (589). Most of these hijackings are reported to take place in townships, followed closely by residential areas.
Vehicle tracking company Tracker, in August published data that shows that the nature of vehicle crime is changing as hijackers become more brazen and desperate. For the past three years, hijacking has been increasing at an alarming rate and is now more prevalent than vehicle theft, said Duma Ngcobo, chief operating officer at Tracker South Africa.
“The slant towards hijacking is most likely an opportunistic tactic, with a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly fast-moving consumable goods.
“Drivers carrying large amounts of cash are also being targeted. South Africans should be wary and remain vigilant, especially when returning home from shopping or when goods bought online are delivered to their homes. Hijackings are often violent, and there are instances where a hostage is taken,” said Ngcobo.
Another popular tactic is criminals impersonating law enforcement officials to commit hijackings, a method otherwise known as blue light robberies, he said.
“Criminals also commit vehicle theft using online selling platforms, where sellers hand over goods on receipt of a fake payment.
“Sometimes, criminals pretend there is something wrong with your vehicle, a method known as flagging down. They also take advantage of drivers stopped on the side of the road or those picking up hitchhikers,” said Ngcobo.