When more intelligent cars mean more desperate hijackers

Richard Brussow, hijacking expert and founder of the National Hijack Prevention Academy has published Hijack Prevention Guidelines on the Arrive Alive website.

Speaking to 702's Sam Cowen, Brussow pointed out that theives are resorting to the element of susprise that goes with hijacking in order to circumvent the advanced security sytems in modern cars.

It has become increasingly difficult to steal motor vehicles, with all the anti-theft devices, such as immobilisers, gear-locks, etc. These steps have resulted in a dramatic increase in vehicle hijackings.

Richard Brussow

More sobering is the analysis showing the preferred days of the week for hijackings... They occur every day of the week, reaching a high on Fridays, due to motorists being more relaxed and traffic increasing earlier on a Friday. Weekends show a lower hijacking rate due to syndicates checking their stock and placing orders on Mondays as well as the fact that there are fewer vehicles on the road. Brussow says this explains why Tuesdays and Wednesdays show more hijackings.

Graph showing days of the week and time of day in which hijackings occurred.

According to his website, the hijacked vehicles that are not sold to buyers in South Africa, will be smuggled out of the country. These vehicles will be sold in our neighbouring countries or trade-exchanged for drugs.

Brussow re-emphasised tips that many of us have heard before: That if you are approached by a stranger while in your vehicle, drive off if possible or use your hooter to attract attention... And to lock your doors, close your windows and do not have bags or briefcases visible in the vehicle - that you should rather use the boot for this.

He went into more detail on the situations where most hijacks are occurring:

3 Tips to help you avoid a hijack situation:

Approaching and entering your driveway:

  • 2km from your house strategy. Be extra alert. Switch off the car radio and concentrate on your surroundings. If you have noticed any vehicle behind you, use the techniques you have learned during the hijack prevention & survival course to determine whether you are being followed.
  • Remember to stop your vehicle just on the inside of the gate and select reverse whilst waiting for the gate to close. This creates confusion and may buy you a few seconds for the gate to close completely behind you.
  • Check your driveway and street before you leave or enter your premises.
  • Make sure your driveway is well lit and clear from shrubbery where perpetrators can hide.
  • Be aware of unknown pedestrians close to your residential address – do not turn into your driveway – pass and go back later.
  • Liaise with your neighbours – know them.
  • Be aware of vehicles parked close to your address with occupants inside. It might be perpetrators observing the area.
  • Be alert if your animals do not greet you at the gate as usual. It might be that the perpetrators over-powered them.
  • Phone your home and ask for someone to make sure your driveway is safe and to open and close the gate for you.
  • When returning home after dark, ensure that an outside light is on, or have someone meet you at the gate. Check with your armed response company if they are rendering rendezvous services.
  • If at any time you have to open the gate yourself, make sure nobody suspicious around and the road is clear. Stop right in front of your gate. Do not switch off the vehicle, leave the key in the ignition, get out and close the door (not creating temptation). Then open the gate. Drive in and close the gate immediately behind you.
  • If you have small children in the vehicle, take the key with you (this is the only exception). You need the key as a “negotiating tool”. The perpetrators want your vehicle and you want your children.
  • If your children are older, it is advised that they exit the vehicle with you when opening the gate so that you are all separated from the vehicle should an attack occur.

Parking your vehicle:

  • Check rear-view mirror to ensure you are not being followed.
  • When exiting your vehicle, be cautious and aware of surrounding obstructions and shrubbery that may be concealing a hijacker.
  • Never sit in your parked vehicle without being conscious of your surroundings. Sleeping in a stationary vehicle is particularly dangerous.
  • When approaching your driveway, be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles / persons. This is very important as the majority of hijackers approach their victims in home driveways.

Whilst entering your vehicle and while driving, the following should be considered:

  • Have your key ready, but not visible.
  • Inspect the outside and inside of the vehicle before unlocking. Check underneath your vehicle for items placed under the wheels. Also make sure nobody is hiding on the passenger side before you enter your vehicle. (As explained during the hijack prevention & survival course)
  • Know your destination and directions to it; and be alert should you get lost.
  • Always drive with your windows closed and doors locked.
  • Make a mental note of any Police Stations in the vicinity.
  • When stopping behind another vehicle, leave half a vehicle length in front of your vehicle to make an emergency escape if necessary.
  • When dropping off a passenger, make sure they are safely in their own vehicle before departing.
  • Avoid driving through high crime or unfamiliar areas.
  • Avoid driving late at night / early hours of the morning when the roads are quiet.
  • Drive in the center lane away from pedestrians where possible.
  • If possible, never drive alone.
  • NEVER, EVER pick up hitchhikers or strangers. (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • Never follow routine routes when driving; change on a regular basis.

With regards to getting help after the event of a hijacking - Brussow's advice is that cell phones should be carried on the body at all times. This is because perpetrators will not allow you to remove your cell phone and valuables from the vehicle during an attack.

Listen to Sam's interview with Richard Brussow here...

Read the full Arrive Alive article on how to avoid a hijack here.

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