Vehicle tracking company Tracker has published new data looking at how hijacking trends have changed in South Africa over the last 25 years.

The data is recorded from its installed vehicle base and analysed in line with its financial year.

The statistics show that the level of vehicle crime was significant in the early years of vehicle tracking, with vehicle criminal activity affecting 4.5% of Tracker’s customer base at the peak in 1999.

However, vehicle tracking has matured with the insurance industry driving an increase in subscriptions to vehicle tracking services.

As a result, the level of vehicle crime has been consistent since 2012 at 0.7% of Tracker’s customer base, dropping to 0.6% over the past three years.

“The early adopters of vehicle tracking services would most likely have been those that really needed it,” said Duma Ngcobo, chief operating officer at Tracker South Africa.

“However, the confluence of insurance and tracking companies, plus the degree of technological innovation from reactive to proactive and then pre-emptive vehicle tracking, would have had a positive impact on driving down the rate of vehicle crime.”

Nevertheless, the nature of vehicle crime is changing, Ngcobo said. For the past three years, hijacking has been on the rise and is now more prevalent than vehicle theft.

Hijacking attributed a higher percentage of the Tracker vehicle crime activities in 2021 when compared to theft, averaging a 54/46% split.

“The slant towards hijacking is most likely an opportunistic tactic, with a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly fast-moving consumable goods.

“Drivers carrying large amounts of cash are also being targeted. South Africans should be wary and remain vigilant at all times, especially when returning home from shopping or when goods bought online are delivered to their homes. Hijackings are often violent and there are instances where a hostage is taken,” said Ngcobo.

Other tactics include criminals impersonating law enforcement officials to commit hijackings, a method otherwise known as blue light robberies, he said.

“Criminals also commit vehicle theft using online selling platforms, where sellers hand over goods on receipt of a fake payment.

“Sometimes, criminals pretend there is something wrong with your vehicle, a method known as flagging down. They also take advantage of drivers stopped on the side of the road or those picking up hitchhikers,” said Ngcobo.

Gauteng remains at the forefront of vehicle crime, clocking an average of 64% of total vehicle crime over a 25 year period.

Yet, for the past three years, Gauteng has accounted for a smaller percentage of national vehicle criminal activity at an average of 56%.

KwaZulu-Natal has moved from an average of 16% to 19% of total criminal activity for the past three years, while Western Cape has moved from 6% to 9%.

When examining the split between theft and hijacking at a provincial level for the past year, six provinces have recorded a greater number of hijacking than theft.

The Western Cape has the highest incidence of hijacking compared to theft with a 78/22% split. The majority of this type of crime occurs in the greater Western Cape metropolitan area.