According to a hijacking awareness guide prepared by Inspector Riaan Steenkamp of the South African Police Services, Elsburg, hijackings are not a new or unique problem to our country.
The first hijacking was recorded in 1984, and between January and August 1996 there were 8 740 hijackings in South Africa, of which 5 251 took place in Gauteng.
With the greater Cape Town area experiencing an increase in hijackings, especially in residential areas, Campus Protection Services (CPS) would like to recommend the following precautions:
- Travel with your doors locked and windows closed or only slightly open.
- Be familiar with your environment.
- Be alert, particularly at the start and end of your journey, or whenever you have to stop. You are more likely to be hijacked when your vehicle is at a standstill.
- Try to vary your route to places you travel regularly.
- Be wary of people loitering near stop streets or intersections, especially at night.
- Ensure that cell phones, handbags and other valuable items are not openly displayed in your vehicle. This will deter criminals from smash-and-grab robberies.
- Don't be fooled by false appeals for help and disregard people who indicate that there is a problem with your vehicle. Rather drive to a safe area and check your vehicle only then.
- Check your rear-view mirror frequently. If you suspect you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station or busy shopping centre.
- When travelling on a deserted road, do not get out of your car to remove obstacles. If you cannot drive around these, reverse your vehicle for a safe distance before turning around.
- If you damage your vehicle by hitting the obstacle, drive on as far as you can until you reach a place of safety.
- Try to stop about five metres behind the car in front of you at a stop sign or traffic light - it makes for an easy getaway if trouble arises.
Securicor's regional manager Stuart Wragg says that should you be confronted by hijackers, be obliging.
"Make sure your hands remain visible and refrain from making any sudden movements. The hijackers will be extremely nervous and you should not do anything to cause them alarm or agitate them further."
Also keep the following in mind:
- No matter how outraged you may feel at the time, your prime objective must be to look after your personal safety and that of your passengers. The preservation of human life must take precedence over material assets.
- Answer any question truthfully especially with regard to firearms. If the hijacker finds out or suspects that you have lied, he is more likely to turn violent.
- Do not reach for anything without first telling the hijackers what you are doing. If you need to unbuckle your seatbelt to get out of the vehicle, tell the hijackers before doing so.
- Without being obviously observant, note as many details of the hijackers as possible; names, features and markings, clothes and accessories, and other vehicles that are involved.
- If you are kidnapped, cooperate with them fully. If you have a baby in the back seat, which they may not have noticed, tell the attackers. Tell them that driving away with your child is only going to make things more difficult for them. Tell them that a baby means them no harm and is no threat. Do the same if you have a pet in the car.
- When it is safe to do so, call the police immediately.
CPS operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week from six service centres. They can be contacted on their 24-hour hotline - 650 2222/3. The police are urging citizens to make use of the 10111 telephone number if they find themselves in a hijack situation. It is also open to anyone who sees a suspicious-looking vehicle either following them or loitering around a neighbourhood.