Juliet McGuire

3-hr hijack ordeal for 2 women, could it have been prevented?

There is so much going on in the media at the moment that a lot is going unseen. And it is not surprising. What is happening to the women of this country is just unacceptable and I hope that the media is able to play a role in resolving these deep-seated issues.

The most recent stats provided by STATS SA Victims of Crime Survey are staggering. A total of 34 880 hijackings took place in SA in one year. That’s one hijacking every 15 minutes. Dialdirect Insurance has seen a 30% increase in hijacking (July 2019 compared with July 2018). That is flipping frightening.

I came across this article on TimesLive.co.za a week or so back about a convicted, and now reformed, hijacker who provided tips on how to prevent being hijacked. I read through the advice and knew at some point I would share it with you.

WHY NOW?

I was doing some research about hijackings and women and if they are genuinely more vulnerable. I came across another article on TimesLive.co.za about two women who had to endure a three-hour long hijacking ordeal. It gave me chills down my spine.

THIS IS THE TIMES LIVE’S STORY

Police are warning motorists to be cautious after two men hijacked and kidnapped two women in Mayfair, Johannesburg, in broad daylight.

The incident happened on Church Street around midday on Friday when the women left  a restaurant and were getting into their car, police said. A man threatened them with a knife and hijacked the vehicle, driving off with the women and an accomplice.

Police later found their silver Toyota at a block of flats in Westbury with the women still inside. “The women told the police that they were hijacked and kidnapped by the man who was found with them – and he was arrested,” said Capt Jeanette Backoff. “The women were extremely traumatised but not otherwise injured.”

Armed response company Suburban Control Centre shared the hijacker’s modus operandi on Facebook.

The suspect initially pretended he was stuck without fuel and asked the women for money.

When they responded that they had none, he threatened them and pointed out an accomplice standing on the other side of the car, the security company said. He then jumped into the driver’s seat and drove off with them. The accomplice got on to the back seat, next to the women.

“They took all the money and valuables the women had … They drove around with them, selling whatever valuables they had in the car. They forced the women to give up their bank card PINs before withdrawing cash at ATMs and along the way stopped to buy alcohol.”

When the women had no more money available in their accounts, the hijackers told them to contact friends and family with a ploy to get more cash, said Suburban Control Centre.

The women were instructed to say they had “knocked over a small child” and needed R5,000 to pay for a doctor. They said the money should be sent to them via e-wallet.

The women’s colleagues, meanwhile, had become alarmed when they failed to return to work. On telephoning them, the phone was answered by the suspects who repeated the story that the women had knocked over one of their children.

“But because they were so intoxicated, the story didn’t tie up and Netstar, the police and security companies in the area were notified.” One of the women’s family members had made an e-wallet transfer, said Suburban Control Centre.

The suspects withdrew the money at an ATM and “stopped to buy more alcohol and drugs, which allowed the authorities to rescue the women” three hours after their kidnapping.

The details provided by the security company were not confirmed by the police spokesperson, who said the officer handling the case would be aware of the specifics.

HOW TERRIFYING!?

It got me thinking, if these women had read tips on ways to avoid being hijacked, would it have saved them from this harrowing ordeal? I am not so sure. There are so many ways in which hijackers prey on victims, how are we to know when someone is in genuine need of help or if they are in fact out to terrorise us?

THE HIJACKER’S SIDE OF THE STORY

I then went back to the original article I had read about the convicted and now reformed hijacker who shared his tips on how to avoid being hijacked. It was DialDirect who interviewed “Bra T”, who was recently interviewed by anticrime activist Yusuf Abramjee on Crime Watch on eNCA. I wanted to see if anything he said may have helped these women.

What I hate is that we have to be the ones protecting ourselves with tips from former criminals, but what else can we do at this point? So if these tips do help someone, then fine by me.

“BRA T” INTERVIEW:

How many cars do hijackers typically steal?

A team of four hijackers — often numbed out by alcohol and drugs — will take 30 to 40 cars a month, and could get as many as five or six cars a day.

How are targets selected?

Hijackers operate according to their clients’ “shopping list”, which specifies exactly what make and model of car they need, how many they need and when they need it by. When it comes to identifying areas and victims, hijackers will target areas where there’s a higher chance of getting the specific car that they need, without presenting too much risk to themselves.  

People on their way back from shopping malls make for ideal targets, as they usually carry cash or cards that could be an added “bonus”.  

Hijackers will often force their victim to share the PIN to their bank card, sometimes holding them hostage to ensure that the PIN provided is correct, and/or to make multiple withdrawals.

Where and how do hijackers strike?

In public spaces, hijackers will follow a target at a distance, later moving closer and striking at a traffic light. They often use a strategy of bumping into their victim and making them think that it is an accident to get them to exit their car. Driveways are also a prime hijacking hot spot, where hijackers typically box in a victim before the access gate is completely open.

Tips to avoid hijacking

Tshifularo emphasises the importance of being aware and looking out for anything that seems suspicious and offers the following tips:

Always be aware of your surroundings and look out for anything suspicious. The highest danger period is when you are arriving at a destination. Wherever you are, focus on your environment, free from distractions.

Remain vigilant while filling up with fuel, especially at night. Keep doors locked and windows closed and only open the window when it is time to pay. Keep an eye out for suspicious movement, especially in your car’s blind spot.

Use your GPS to avoid getting lost. People who look as though they don’t know where they are, are targets. Inform someone at your destination about your estimated time of arrival.

Invest in a tracking device for your car, ideally one with a panic button and a backup tracking device for when the primary device is disabled.

When at traffic lights, keep your head up and make eye contact with the pedestrians around you.

Slow down from a good distance when approaching a red traffic light — particularly late at night — so that you don’t have to come to a complete stop before the traffic light turns green.

When stationary, give yourself enough space to manoeuvre your car and to avoid being boxed in. You should be able to see the rear tyres of the vehicle in front of you.

Be aware of suspicious vehicles following you. If you suspect that you are being followed, make a couple of false turns if need be, then drive to the nearest police station. If you are at all unsure of whether the car trying to pull you over is actually an official police vehicle, remain calm, switch on your car’s hazard lights to show that you are prepared to co-operate and drive to the nearest police station.

If you are involved in a bumper-bashing, drive to a police station or busy area to check for damage.

Always park in a safe, well-lit area.

When arriving home, remain parallel to your driveway in the road while opening your gate and turn in only once the gate is fully open. In this way you’re able to drive away if you need to.

Lighting is key for safety. Ensure that your driveway and gate are well lit and that when you’re out, you park your car in a secure, bright area.

Install smash and grab window protection if possible. Do not drive with your windows open and doors unlocked, and keep your valuables out of sight and not on the seat next to you.

Check the back seat before getting into the car, even if you left it locked.

“In the worst-case scenario, if you are confronted by a hijacker, try to remain calm and do not argue,” says Tshifularo.

“If you’re asked to get out of the car, use the hand closest to the seat belt to unclip it, and don’t make any sudden gestures. Avoid eye contact, comply with the hijacker’s requests and don’t be a hero. Remember your life is worth more than your car,” he continues.

PLEASE BE SHARE WITH LOVED ONES

I don’t say this to get more traffic to my site or to up my numbers, I genuinely want more and more people in this country to stand up and take crime head on. If we are always one step ahead of the criminals, then maybe, just maybe we will see a decrease in the hijacking stats I mentioned at the beginning of this article. If we stand together, we can achieve anything. I truly believe that!

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