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Vehicle Crime returns to pre-Covid levels

Vehicle Crime returns to pre-Covid levels

Gauteng is SA’s vehicle crime hotspot, according to Tracker’s latest Vehicle Crime Index covering the period January to June 2022. With national incidents back up to pre-Covid levels, the elevation can partly be attributed to increased vehicle volumes post-Covid as we return to old routines, as well as new modus operandi on the part of criminals and crime syndicates, such as keyless access theft. 

The Tracker Vehicle Crime Index aggregates information from Tracker’s more than 1.1 million installed vehicle base.

The latest Index for the first half of 2022 illustrates that crime continues to intensify in Gauteng, which accounts for 61% of national Tracker incidents, up from 58% recorded for the latter half of 2021. This is followed by KwaZulu Natal at 17% of total incidents, and the Western Cape at 8%.

Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operations Officer at Tracker says vehicle theft is up 7% nationally by volume and hijackings up 4% over the previous review period. “Gauteng incident volumes have increased 10% from the last review period, with theft comprising 48% of incidents and hijackings 52%. We believe the increase in incident volume can in part be attributed to a return to ‘normal’ as people make their way back to their places of work and social activities ramp up following Covid-19 protocol relaxations.”

Total incident volumes in the aftermath of Covid have increased to the same level recorded prior to the protracted period of Covid lockdown and subsequent social adjustments. An increase in vehicle usage during 2022 appears to be presenting criminals with greater access and opportunity to exercise tactics such as keyless access theft to relieve owners of their assets. Keyless access theft involves a pair or team of criminals, one of whom could discreetly follow a vehicle owner as they walk away from a locked vehicle, all the while amplifying the constantly transmitted signal received from the vehicle’s key fob to a criminal counterpart, who may then gain access to the vehicle and drive away with it.

While vehicle crime volume has notably escalated in Gauteng, overall vehicle crime volume for all other provinces combined remains largely unchanged from the prior review period. KZN’s 58% hijacking to 42% theft ratio reflects a recent increase in hijacking propensity and Western Cape figures still show that hijackings dominate incidents in the province with a 76% hijacking to 24% theft ratio.

Ngcobo continues, “We have however noted an indication that the upward trajectory in hijackings we have tracked through the Covid months may have turned a corner, with the first decrease in the ratio of national hijackings vs thefts recorded since the start of Covid.”

Tracker previously reported on the concerning escalation in hijacking prevalence as a proportion of total vehicle crime during the last three years. Tracker’s most recent figures for January to June 2022, while concerning, show a slight decline in the proportion of hijackings over the prior period. With more vehicles on the road now than during Covid’s social and working restrictions, the indication is one of greater opportunity for criminals to apply theft tactics without resorting to hijacking.

While vehicle crime incidents occur throughout the day and night, and every day of the week, an escalation in reported hijackings is noted between midweek and Friday, with late afternoon until early evening showing the highest incidence, between the hours of 4pm and 8pm. Reported thefts are most prevalent between 11am and 3pm, and theft volumes escalate on Saturdays. For the January to June 2022 period, Tracker’s efforts resulted in 3110 vehicle recoveries, 273 arrests and the recovery of 19 firearms.

“Be aware of your surroundings at all times and the possible scenarios that could play out as you make your way to your destination. Using an app or digital platform to share your journey with a family member or friend can help raise a timely flag should you not arrive as planned. Vehicle tracking devices play a pivotal role in vehicle recovery and with the innovation in technology in this space, they are also essential for driver and passenger safety. We can see that crime continues to rise and although many view cars as depreciating assets that can be replaced, lives cannot, and safety should be the number one priority,” concludes Ngcobo.