How vehicle crime has evolved over the past 25 years

03 August 2021 - 14:26 By Motoring Staff
For the past three years, vehicle hijacking has been on the rise and is more prevalent than theft.
For the past three years, vehicle hijacking has been on the rise and is more prevalent than theft.
Image: djedzura / 123rf

Usually, looking back 25 years can be nostalgic. However, when the focus is on vehicle crime, it is unlikely to evoke sentimentality, but can paint a very insightful picture.

The latest Tracker Vehicle Crime Index reveals vehicle crime statistics since the company’s inception 25 years ago, recorded from its installed vehicle base and analysed in line with its financial year.

The statistics indicate the level of vehicle crime was significant in the early years of vehicle tracking, with vehicle crime activities affecting 4.5% of Tracker’s customer base at the peak in 1999. However, this rate declined as vehicle tracking matured and the insurance industry drove an increase in subscriptions to vehicle tracking services. The level of vehicle crime has been consistent since 2012 at 0.7% of Tracker’s customer base, dropping to 0.6% for the past three years.

25 years of vehicle crime.
25 years of vehicle crime.
Image: Supplied

Nevertheless, the nature of vehicle crime is changing. For the past three years, hijacking has been on the rise and is more prevalent than theft. Hijacking attributed a higher percentage of the Tracker vehicle crime activities in 2021 when compared to theft, averaging a 54%/46% split. This is higher than the last time hijacking overtook theft in 1999 with a 525/48% split.

“The slant towards hijacking is most likely an opportunistic tactic, with a noticeable increase in vehicles targeted for their loads, particularly fast-moving consumable goods,” says Duma Ngcobo, chief operating officer at Tracker SA.

“Drivers carrying large amounts of cash are also targeted. South Africans should be wary and remain vigilant at all times, especially when returning home from shopping or when goods bought online are delivered to their homes. Hijackings are often violent and there are instances when a hostage is taken.”

“Other techniques include criminals impersonating law enforcements officials to commit hijackings, a method known as blue light robberies. 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,” says Ngcobo.

The province that has always been at the forefront of vehicle crime is Gauteng, clocking an average 64% of total vehicle crime activities in 25 years. Yet, for the past three years, Gauteng has attributed a smaller percentage of national vehicle crime activities at an average of 56%. This as the other two dominant provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape, start accounting for more national vehicle crime activities. KwaZulu-Natal has moved from an average of 16% of vehicle crime activities to 19% for the past three years, while Western Cape has moved from 6% to 9%.

The theft and hijacking split per province.
The theft and hijacking split per province.
Image: Supplied

When examining the split between theft and hijacking at provincial level for the past year, six provinces experienced a greater numbers of hijackings than thefts. The Western Cape has the highest incidence of hijacking compared to theft with a 78%/22% split. Most of this vehicle crime occurs in the greater Western Cape metropolitan area.


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