Saturday, April 15, 2006

Update to a question...

With all the sad news about crime - particularly farm attacks, it was heartening to read this.

Hijackings take a nosedive

Thembisile Makgalemele
April 15 2006 at 06:38PM

From IoL

Hijackings are steadily declining, the police's Anti-Hijacking Unit as well as at least three vehicle tracking companies have all claimed recently.

National police spokesperson Ronnie Naidoo says that according to recent statistics there has been a decrease of 27 percent nationwide since 2001.

Some of the reasons for the decline, says Naidoo, include the fact that vehicles are becoming more technologically advanced and are more difficult to steal, and the re-registering of stolen vehicles is harder since the identification and prosecution of corrupt officials.

Other reasons given are more efficient border controls, successful recoveries by tracking companies and an increased awareness by drivers of their surroundings.

More technologically advanced
Gauteng police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mary Martins-Engelbrecht adds that there has been a 36 percent decrease in hijackings in the province since 2001.

"We have seven task teams who deal specifically with hijackings and syndicates.

"The National Director of Public Prosecutions also established seven specialised courts. This resulted in a conviction rate of 76 percent, with an average sentence of 12 years' imprisonment. Several people have also received life sentences," says Martins-Engelbrecht.

Tracking company Tracker says that, based on its customer base of some 360 000 vehicles, hijacking in South Africa is down by 43% since 1999.

Says Tracker's communications manager, Gareth Crocker: "Our statistics are not a direct reflection of the climate of hijacking in South Africa, but they provide a reasonable indication. We are very encouraged by this trend but are well aware that the war is far from won.

'The war is far from won'
"Interestingly, our statistics also show that despite our increasing subscriber base, our activations have reached a plateau. As our customer base grows, our activations have not increased in proportion. In fact, they have stabilised. This is again an indication, certainly from our base, that vehicle theft is on the decline." Crocker adds that Tracker feel the main reason for the decline is better collaboration between them and the police.

"We would like to think that, in partnership with the SAPS, our more than 28 000 vehicle recoveries, some 6 000 arrests and the shutting down of more than 280 chop-shops and crime syndicates over the past nine years have played a significant role in bringing down both vehicle theft and hijacking. This, together with the contribution of the rest of the stolen vehicle recovery industry, is certainly making a difference," says Crocker.

David Shipton, divisional manager: operations at Netstar, also attributes the decline to a successful partnership with the police.

"Our dedicated recovery teams work closely with the SAPS when a hijacking occurs. Should there be a syndicate involved or arrests, we hand it over to the SAPS, who are with our teams at the busts.

"To date we have been instrumental in exposing and closing 93 chop0shops and syndicates, with about 121 arrests during these operations," says Shipton.

Brent Grüng, communications officer for Matrix, says that although they have noticed a sharp decline in vehicle hijackings in the past five years, there has been an increase in intelligent vehicle theft.

"Intelligent vehicle theft is crime where the criminal follows and records the driver's movements. For example: the criminal knows that they are in the gym between 6am and 7am every day. Therefore, this is the perfect time to obtain the keys from the locker and make a clean getaway. And this is just one example of many methods being used," says Grüng.

This article was originally published on page 5 of The Star on April 15, 2006

So I wonder: are increased farm attacks, cash heists and store robberies a result of the increased difficulty attached to hijacking? Are they just a softer target?

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