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For all its beauty and splendour, South Africa is a country fraught with crime, from the less serious crimes like muggings and pick-pocketing to serious crimes like housebreaking, hijacking and more.

Therefore one should take every care in the world to ensure their safety and that of their valuables at all times.

One crime that is on the rise is that of vehicle theft and hijackings, partly because criminals view this as an easy job with a high pay off as the vehicles are in demand. Criminals no longer target only unattended vehicles they now also target vehicles that have occupants in them. Here are five top tips to ensure that you are not an easy target for criminals:

Know where you are, check your surroundings: If you go to the shops after work, because that’s the only time you can afford to, or you are one to hit the gym in the evenings, you may find that your car is often the only one in the parking lot. Ensure that as you approach your vehicle you have your car keys ready, look around you to make sure you’re not being followed, should you feel like anyone is following you, don’t ignore that gut feeling, rather walk to the nearest open establishment until you feel it’s safer to walk to your car.

Make sure you’re not followed: When approaching your home, lower the volume of the music in your car as this can be distracting to you and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity nearby. Once in your driveway, keep your car in reverse mode, this will confuse criminals as they will think you are about to drive out and should they accost you can accelerate quickly.  One should also pay closer attention at night as it’s easier for criminals to hide out behind objects such as dustbins or big trees, it’s a good idea to take precautions such as installing adequate lighting in your driveway.

Make sure your car is locked before walking away:  Instead of walking away and then locking your car, stand close to your car and check that it is in fact locked. Many people tend to press the immobiliser and assume they’ve locked their cars, but unfortunately criminals may use jamming devices to prevent immobilisers from working and as you disappear away, criminals will pounce on the opportunity to steal the valuables in your car – also make certain that you’ve closed all windows and the sunroof because that too, can be used as a point of entry into your vehicle.

Don’t leave your valuables in visible view:  Criminals are attracted by what they see inside of a car, make certain to hide every and any item of value you may have. Items such as iPods, cellphones, wallets, handbags, tablets and laptops all attract criminals who may end up breaking into your car to get to these. Even in slow moving traffic you should always keep your valuables out of sight and safely in the boot or under the seat, where criminals can’t see them as smash and grabbers are on the rise.

Keep to the middle: As you approach intersections, keep to the middle lanes as it isn’t easy for criminals to drive off with cars that are in the middle of traffic, they would much rather target the ones on the outer lanes. Beware of your surroundings as you slow down behind other cars in the traffic and make sure to leave room for an escape should you need it.

Avoid known crime hotspots: If possible avoid driving through known high crime risk areas even if this may cut your journey. Rather drive the longer safer routes. Saving 40minutes isn’t worth putting your life at risk. If these routes are unavoidable, be alert and cautious and keep a wide distance when approaching traffic lights or stop streets.

Lastly, should you be confronted by hijackers, as traumatic as the situation may be, try not to panic, as this will surely lead to you making mistakes that could cost your life, remain calm and avoid confrontation. If they ask you to exit the vehicle, do so as quickly as possible and don’t make eye contact.  Your car is not worth your life.

While you cannot completely mitigate the risks of being a victim of this heinous crime, you can atleast minimise the risks by following the above tips. You should also consider fitting an anti-theft device in your car; these devices make hijackers nervous as they are aware that the cars are traceable. Thieves are reluctant to steal vehicles if they know that the cars will be recovered. Insurers such as Auto & General Insurance will not charge an additional theft excess to vehicles that are fitted with a tracking device that was in working order at the time of the theft.  

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