A New Trend for Criminals in South Africa

The soaring fuel prices have made fuel tankers a target for criminal syndicates on South Africa’s roads, with hijackings and vehicle thefts indicating an upward trend.

According to the data released by Netstar, a vehicle-recovery and fleet intelligence company, they indicated they had noted a rapid increase in reported incidents of hijackings from their customers. These reported incidents occurred in the first half of the year. From January to June 2022, the number of reported incidents from their customers for hijackings and thefts rose by 24%.

The Netstar operations executive stated that there had also been incidents involving hijacking fuel tankers belonging to Netstar fleet customers. In one instance, a fuel tanker was hijacked by a gang that engaged in criminal activity, which occurred after midnight. This incident indicates that fuel tankers are becoming a target. This trend comes when the country has experienced skyrocketing fuel prices.

The company is known to have a high recovery rate as over 90% of hijacked and stolen vehicles are found. Although they have such a high recovery rate, they also see a significant increase in incidents with fleets and cargo at risk. The operations executive recommends that operators of tanker fleets be vigilant and take the necessary measures to ensure that drivers and vehicles are protected.

Some of the trends that Netstar has identified include a surge in vehicle thefts, especially during the morning hours, as well as a surge in hijackings during the afternoon and evening. The company’s data indicates that hijackings were more common in the evening hours. In May and June, the peak hours for daily vehicle hijackings were between 19h00 and 20h00. The most common method for vehicles to be stolen during this period for their customers was through hijackings. From the data, it is clear that criminals may find it easier to steal vehicles through a contact crime such as hijacking rather than stealing an unattended vehicle. This could be because there is no need to bypass alarm and immobiliser technology when the vehicle has a driver on the wheel.

The majority of theft and hijacking incidents that occurred were in Gauteng, and it can be said that it is so far the primary hotspot for vehicle theft. In June of 2022, 51.2% of vehicle-theft crimes recorded in South Africa occurred in Gauteng. The province that reported the second highest incidents was KwaZulu-Natal, with 23% of the incidents occurring. Lastly, the Eastern and Western Cape both recorded around 6% of the incidents.

According to Tracker South Africa, criminal syndicates are changing their methods to hijack victims. With vehicle technology constantly improving and many cars now having the ‘push to start’ button, criminals have had to find new strategies to adapt. The operations officer for Tracker South Africa pointed out a rise in using re-key programmers and signal grabbers. Criminal syndicates constantly have to change their modus operandi, and crime trends also change all the time. For example, trends can also vary based on locations. In Johannesburg, they have been more hijackings, while they have been more car thefts in Pretoria.

Criminals must also develop new methods to target cars with better technology, like cars with start buttons. Vehicles, where you push the “start” button to drive the vehicle will unlock when you approach them without needing to press the unlock button. Though criminals’ methods to target cars change, their tactics remain the same. Criminals may physically bump you, and then when you leave your vehicle to inspect the damage, they will use this as an opportunity to hijack you. Another tactic they can use is showing you that you have a flat tyre, and when you stop to check, they will then hijack you.

Criminals are not only targeting tankers, but according to the authorities, they have seen more instances of individuals who have also had their fuel stolen. In the Western Cape, for example, traffic officers encountered criminals stealing diesel from a truck. When officers caught the suspects, they had siphoned nearly 125 litres of diesel. The criminals use large drums and pipes to extract the diesel.

The provincial government warned motorists that they should look out for opportunistic criminal acts that include stealing fuel and remain alert at all times. Though the ‘fill up and dash’ method is not a new phenomenon, it is however dangerous and incredibly opportunistic. The perpetrators who manage to get away will travel with large amounts of fuel in makeshift containers, which is incredibly risky.




Speaking of trends, take a look at Spiking – A New Hijacking Trend to be Aware Of.

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