The Vehicle Issue – what to know about your car, staying safe & buying wisely

While we focus primarily on home security here at Thorne, your vehicle is an extension of your home, and it goes without saying that a lot of insecurity exists about keeping safe while in your vehicle here in South Africa.

Again, some areas are hit harder than others, but wherever you are, it pays to be a little extra ruthless when buying your vehicle, driving it, and storing it too.

Following an article released by the Crime & Justice Hub (http://www.issafrica.org), we gathered some useful vehicle safety tips to guide your choices when owning and driving a vehicle in South Africa. The article can be found here.

The pros of stopping the cons with anti-theft systems

funny anti-theftBusiness Against Crime (SA) recommend that, even for lower-priced vehicles, it is essential that they are fitted with anti-theft technology. Statistics show that those vehicles known to most likely be fitted with such devices experience lower rates of theft. Highly sophisticated systems may, however, occasionally experience slightly elevated levels of hijacking as a result of criminals’ need to disable anti-theft systems. But before this frightens you, bear in mind that hijackings are far less common than theft, and anti-theft technologies make it much harder to inadvertently support large crime rings dealing in stolen vehicles and parts. Even a simple gear-lock as a form of anti-theft device can be effective in reducing car theft. No kidding! All of this seems ridiculously obvious, but it’s always nice to know that the measures one is taking to deter the bad guys are actually working.

The scary stuff & how to try to handle it

The Crime & Justice Hub have also released a basic tip list of actions to take to avoid hijackings. While very useful, they are sometimes difficult for the average driver to implement. Such tips include not talking to strangers or interacting with vendors at traffic lights, or varying your daily route to work, if possible (really?!). But there was also a host of useful pieces of advice such as:

  • If your car is bumped from behind and you do not feel comfortable with the individual(s) involved in the situation, drive to the nearest police station for help.
  • Do not reach for your purse or valuables. Leave everything behind if forced from the car.
  • Your life is more valuable than your possessions.
  • Do not resist, especially if the thief has a weapon.
  • Give up your vehicle with no questions asked and move away.
  • A lift club limits the risk of becoming a victim of crime.
  • Do not give strangers a lift.
  • A gear lock is an affordable and a very effective anti-theft device.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is in a good condition when you plan to go on a journey.
  • Ensure that the fuel tank of your vehicle always has sufficient fuel.
  • Always lock your vehicles doors and keep the windows closed.
  • Do not leave your vehicle unlocked, even if you think you will be away for only a minute.
  • Park your vehicle in places that are well lit.

Here’s some interesting info on car theft trends:

ImageWhile you may think that your shiny new 4×4 is a tasty target for car thieves, it is in fact a reality that older cars (between 8 & 18 years old) are more commonly stolen than recently-released models. This is partly because of the ease with which older cars can be stolen (fewer are fit with sophisticated anti-theft & tracking systems, and thieves have had more time to get to know the vehicle & how to steal it) and also because a demand has been created for the vehicles in the criminal & legitimate markets. These older vehicles are also routinely stolen for parts. Interestingly, the market for stolen vehicles is largely centered in South Africa itself, and only 30% are transported abroad. That means that, as discussed earlier, the vigilance required when making purchases for new vehicles or parts is absolutely essential in assisting with attempts to reduce vehicle crime in South Africa.

More interesting trends:

ImageSedans are the most commonly-stolen types of vehicles.

Minibuses & bakkies are more commonly robbed.

Entry-level, more affordable cars are stolen more often (there are also more of these types of cars on the road, and so this fact does not, therefore indicate the likelihood or risk of having your car stolen. More cars = more thefts).

Desirability does play a role in the risk of a vehicle being stolen or robbed so, more expensive cars may be as likely to be stolen than cheaper ones – a factor that is heavily influenced by the presence (or lack thereof) of anti-theft technology and tracking devices.

Newer models of cars that carry the same parts as older models are more likely to be targeted.

4x4s are at a greater risk when used near to borders.

“The easier it is to remove or conceal the identity of a vehicle, the more desirable the vehicle to criminals.”

“It was found that models that are standard fitted with micro-dots are less desirable for the organised criminals. It is impossible to hide the original identity of such vehicles due to the efficacy of the micro-dotting technology.” Link to an organisation that deals with microdot technology:

 http://www.datadot.co.za

Your vehicle at Home:

It is most important that your vehicle is safe while you and your family are in it, but it helps us sleep much more easily at night when we are sure that it is safe while unoccupied too. Naturally, we would advise parking your car indoors and, if doing so, the ISS website suggests:

  • If possible, put up a mirror against the front wall of your garage to see if someone is following you into the garage.
  • Do not open your garage doors before your gates are closed.

These tips keep your household safe from unwanted attention from would-be car thieves.

If you are forced to park outside, then follow the tips already laid out in one of our older posts, and earlier in this one.

parked car

  • Park in a well-lit area. Lighting can be a huge deterrent for thieves and burglars!
  • Have anti-theft devices installed. From gear locks to alarm systems, you can’t go wrong with a clear barrier to would-be thieves against entering your car.
  • Try to park your car where you can see it.
  • Try to park in a place that allows you quick and easy access to a place of safety – that is, near a gate to your home, meaning you are not alone in the street at late hours for prolonged periods of time.
  • Don’t faff about in your car once you’ve parked. Collecting and rummaging through countless things you’ve left on the back seat, or having a sneaky smoke before going back into the house can leave you vulnerable.
  • Don’t be overly-panicked all the time either. The warnings in this post may seem to indicate that there is crime waiting to get us at every corner, but what we’re really trying to do is just keep you vigilant and prepared and to avoid becoming highly easy targets. Panicking and worrying may lead to foolish actions, difficulty getting from the car to your home, and cause you to make silly mistakes (like forgetting to lock your car, etc.).
  • Try to keep your cell-phone charged at all times.
  • It’s rather mad that we have to say this, but it’s also listed on the Crime & Justice Hub’s warning list: DON’T leave your weapon in your car ever! If you own a gun, you are doing society a huge disservice by doing this, and weapons in cubby-holes are excellent loot for car-thieves (and may even make would-be thieves target you if your carelessness is well-known in the neighbourhood).
  • Befriend (or even just be nice to) your neighbours so that all are looking out for your vehicle parked outside.
  • Don’t leave items in your car overnight
  • If you can, cover your back speakers with fabric which matches that which covers the divider to your boot. This is an easy and inexpensive way to hide them.

Buying your vehicle – don’t add fuel to the fiendish fire!

Thorne Car Barrier SystemsPurchasing indiscriminately may cause you to become part of this ever-growing network of criminal activity that keeps you worried at night. That is, it is important that you are absolutely certain that the car you are purchasing is being legitimately sold, and carries no stolen parts. The Crime & Justice Hub suggest buying only from reputable dealers or persons known well, and (this should go without saying), not to buy an unlicensed vehicle. As stated in a 2009 paper on their website (written by Business Against Crime South Africa),

“Never buy a vehicle without the eNaTIS registration certificate and never buy an unlicensed vehicle. Check the information, especially the VIN, engine number, make, model and colour on both the registration certificate and licence disc. Make sure that the information on the two

certificates corresponds and that it is the same as the information on the vehicle. Check for spelling mistakes on the certificates (especially with regard to Afrikaans spelling). Any such obvious mistakes would suggest the likelihood of a fraudulent transaction.”

Perhaps there’s no spell-check function for Afrikaans yet. Jokes aside, do not neglect to be thorough at this stage! This seems obvious, but often (particularly with younger purchasers) in the excitement of purchasing a new vehicle, one skims the fine print and prematurely trusts the friendly fellow selling you this well-priced beauty.

Feedback:

If you have any personal info or feedback regarding vehicle safety in South Africa, please e-mail us with tips, advice or criticisms and we will update our entry.

Useful links:

Crime & Justice Hub South Africa:

Datadot (Microdotting)

AutoCheck Verification Reports:

To find reputable dealers:

Retail Motor Industry

Independent Dealer Association

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