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Road Safety and Preventing Smash-and-Grab

Introduction and Definition

Crime and criminal activity require from South African motorists alertness and caution to more than only other vehicles.

Even though progress has been made in fighting hijackings and vehicle theft, there has been an increase in theft from vehicles. Many of these are what can be defined as “Smash-and-Grab”.

In this section, we would like to discuss the crime of smash-and-grab in more detail and offer recommendations to motorists on preventing this sudden invasion of privacy and likely loss of possessions.

What is a smash and grab crime?

A smash and grab criminal turns a pleasant drive into a nightmare when criminals are pouncing on unsuspecting drivers. The criminal act is usually characterised by smashing through some sort of barrier (e.g. vehicle window) while the car is stationary at traffic lights or stuck in slow moving traffic and grabbing something of value (e.g. jackets, handbags, laptops, etc).

A smash and grab usually plays on the element of speed and surprise  -The violent smashing of the window at the passenger side places the motorist in a few moments of silent paralysis – just enough to get hold of the valuables and flee the scene!

These car burglaries can be expensive, from the cost of repairs to the vehicle and windows to replacing your belongings. The victims will most likely be traumatised and feel victimised for quite some time.

What is being targeted?

The thieves are usually after valuables which they can easily identify from outside the vehicle and sell as easily once removed from the possession of the motorists. Items targeted include:

  • Purses, hand bags and wallets
  • Laptop bags, briefcases and backpacks
  • Shopping bags
  • Cell phones, MP3 players and tablets
  • Loose change and CDs
  • Keys

Where are drivers most at risk and what are the methods used?

We find in the media mentions and warnings of so-called “Hot spots”. Even without warning signs, the cautious driver would be able to identify areas where he/ she would be most at risk. These tend to be places where criminals know that vehicles will be stationary, where drivers can be easily distracted and where the criminal can make a quick and effective escape.

Who are most vulnerable?

  • The victims are most often single drivers with belongings on the passenger seat.
  • Criminals tend to focus on female drivers well knowing that they are less likely to chase after them.
  • Drivers who are distracted are most vulnerable – those busy on the cellular phone or with a cigarette in the hand.
  • Vehicles left unattended away from the crowds and with valuables visible are easy targets for a quick smash-and-grab.

Methods used and Modus Operandi

  • Criminals will focus on those areas where they know traffic is often congested and where vehicles will remain stationary for a while.
  • These criminals also will often work in pairs where one will pose as a vendor, distracting the attention of the driver while the other party will perform the smash –and-grab from the passenger side.
  • Objects are sometimes placed on the road and motorists make the mistake of leaving their vehicles to remove these objects. This is when the vehicles are then easily targeted.
  • Communication technology such as cellular phones has also enabled these criminals to identify potential victims from a bridge or position of elevation and to relay this message to their partners in crime further along the road.
  • The person making the smash and grab will most likely select the scene of the crime as an area where a fast getaway would be possible for him and any pursuit would be difficult.

Advice on preventing smash-and-grabs

Even though it is not always possible to avoid the so-called “hotspots” where these criminals prey on unsuspecting motorists, it is possible to reduce the risk of becoming a smash and grab the victim. Motorists can make these burglaries more difficult. Smash-and-grab car burglars don’t want difficult challenges and would rather prefer to move on when they suspect hurdles to the swift execution of these crimes.

We would like to advise the following measures:

Safe Driving

  • Lock all your doors and close the windows when driving – Never open vehicle windows or doors for strangers.
  • Avoid opening your windows or getting involved in discussions with street vendors or anyone handing out flyers.
  • Be constantly on the lookout for suspicious looking characters.
  • Always be conscious of your surroundings and remain alerted when coming to an intersection or stopping your vehicle.
  • Be wary of people standing at intersections – They may be innocent but perpetrators mix with these people while waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
  • If you encounter obstacles such as rocks or tyres do not get out of your vehicle to remove them -immediately reverse and drive off in the opposite direction.
  • If it’s late at night, slow down well in advance so that the light changes green by the time you reach the intersection.
  • Leave a gap between you and the car in front of you to give you room to escape (i.e. drive away from the scene), if anything should happen.
  • Be especially wary whenever you see broken glass lying on the road. If the pieces of glass are still scattered across the road, chances are that a smash and grab occurred just recently.

Taking Away the Attraction

  • Reduce the chances of becoming a target by removing that which the criminals are trying to get their hands on.
  • Smash-and-grab car burglars aren’t exactly criminal masterminds. Many simply act on impulse.
  • Don’t have bags, cellular phones, briefcases or other valuables visible inside the vehicle – valuables only attract thieves who may break your car window.
  • Hide your valuables. – Car floors, dashboards and seats are not good places to leave items.
  • If you can’t take valuable items with you, hide them out of sight in your trunk.

Safety when Parking

  • Thieves target car parks. Always park your car in attended parking lots.
  • When parking at night ensures that you always park in a well-lit area.
  • Keep your car visible. Thieves do not want witnesses – You can help prevent a smash-and-grab by parking your car in crowded areas near pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
  • Never sit in your vehicle without being conscious of your surroundings.
  • Lock your doors and roll up your windows when you park
  • Activate your security system
  • Consider window tinting (if permitted by local laws)
  • Avoid using the console or glove box as mobile lockboxes
  • Don’t hand a car burglar your keys. Leaving your key on the dash or in the ignition is an invitation to a car burglar. And keep in mind that if you have a great hiding place for a spare key (in your wheel well or above your sun visor), a thief has thought of it, too.
  • Stow your belongings like shopping bags and laptops in the trunk before you get to the parking area.

Window Safety Film

What is ‘smash and grab’ film?

Protective safety film is pasted on vehicle windows to help prevent smash and grab incidents. The protective film is usually tinted so that no one can see into the car, while also preventing the windows from shattering. While the glass breaks, the film holds the pieces in place, which further protects you from broken glass.

Although smash and grab film may not prevent smash and grab incidents from taking place, it will give you a few extra minutes to recompose yourself and drive away safely.

If you don’t have smash and grab film installed, leave your window open slightly (approximately 3 cm, but less than 5cm) whilst driving. This makes the glass more flexible and more resistant to shattering if they’re struck by a sharp object.

Safety film is however not only a deterrent for criminals. Other benefits include:

  • It protects passengers from being hit by dangerous glass splinters when the glass breaks in side-impact accidents.
  • Windows film can reject up to 99% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, helping to protect you against skin cancer, and your car’s interior from fading and cracking.
  • Safety film forms an invisible shield to reduce glare and resultant eye fatigue.
  • The film also improves your comfort by keeping the vehicle interior cool and comfortable in the scorching heat, reducing the load on the air conditioning and thus saving fuel.

Keep in mind that some car insurance companies provide a discounted premium to vehicle owners installing window safety film on their vehicles.

Conclusion

The cautious driver will be able to prevent most incidents of smash-and-grab. If there is nothing to grab there is no reason for the window to be smashed! Trust your instincts. If you see suspicious activity, find somewhere else to park. We would like to urge motorists to report suspicious activity to the proper authorities – you can help prevent others from becoming a victim of a smash-and-grab or another crime!

Fight fire with fire, Mbalula tells the police

Acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, right, welcomes the newly appointed Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, centre, and his deputy, Bongani Mkongi, in Pretoria. Picture: Bongani Shilubane

Pretoria – New Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula urged members of the SAPS on Tuesday to fight fire with fire.

The former sport and recreation minister said the relationship between the department and criminals would be like “chalk and cheese”.

“We are not going to be soft on criminals. Police officers must fight fire with fire,” he said.

Mbalula made this promise during a parade to mark his official welcome to the Police Ministry at the SAPS Academy in Pretoria West.

He was accompanied by his deputy Bongani Mkongi.

“When President Jacob Zuma appointed us, he said we must mobilise our people to work with the police to fight and defeat crime,” Mbalula said, adding fighting and beating crime was their mandate.

“No police officer will die in vain; anyone who kills a police officer will be met with fire. I am not saying shoot-to-kill, but shoot back. You have guns; use them to protect yourselves and communities.”

Mbalula urged communities to work together with the police to fight crime. He also urged the police to be honest and not be on the payroll of criminals. “Minister Gigaba (finance minister Malusi Gigaba), said the police budget must be increased so we can fight crime,” he said.

Mbalula was also critical of the tendency by communities to destroy infrastructure during protests.

He said students and every citizen were allowed to protest, but should not destroy property.

Mkongi called for police officers’ salaries to be increased. “If we want to beat the negative morale of police officers, we must pay them well so they could do their jobs.”

Acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane said SAPS members were willing and committed to take guidance and direction from Mbalula in the execution of their work.

Mbalula said he would focus on places like Sunnyside as criminals had captured the city.

He said they planned roadshows to get first-hand experience on challenges faced by police.

Pretoria News

Police not coping, says David Makhura

February 26, 2016.Gauteng Premier David Makhura at the media briefing at the Gauteng Legislature in Johannesburg.picture:FREDDY MAVUNDA © Financial Mail

Johannesburg – Police men and women were not coping in the fight against crime in the province, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said as he delivered the State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Monday.

“The trajectory on crime remains negative. From Sophiatown to Soshanguve, Kagiso to Katlehong, Khutsong to Evaton, Elodrado Park to Rossettenville, Olievenhoutbosch to Tembisa… our communities are terrorised by gangsters, drug lords and rapists. Murder and robbery remains excruciatingly high, violence against women, children and members of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex] LGBTI community remains out of control,” Makhura told MPLs in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg.

“Our police men and women are not coping. They are not getting the leadership they require from the top management, mainly due to infighting among the leaders of our law enforcement agencies.”

The provincial government a new policing plan through to try and turn the tide on crime in Gauteng. The plan included the establishment of specialised units closed down by former national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi between 2000 and 2006.

“I want every station, cluster and indeed the provincial commissioner to report every eight weeks about crime reduction targets. We want to see real progress in closure of drug dens and the arrest and prosecution of drug lords. I want to see serious decline in crimes perpetrated against the most vulnerable in our communities such as women, children, the elderly and the LGBTI community,” he said.

Turning to the recent torching of houses purported to belong to drug lords in Johannesburg’s Rosettenvile and in Pretoria West, Makhura said urged leaders to handle the issue of migrants carefully.

“I have always been clear that everyone is welcome in Gauteng, the home for all. We are South Africa’s most cosmopolitan and Afropolitan province. I have personally participated in marches and said very clearly that I am against xenophobia. I would like to call on all leaders to handle the matter of migrants with a great deal of sensitivity and care. In any country, migrants and refugees are very vulnerable people,” he said.

“We must never try to stigmatise or criminalise all migrants and foreign nationals because this will have devastating consequences that would lead to the death of innocent people. The whole world is grappling with this issue right now and let us deal with this matter in way that would not fan the flames of xenophobic violence.”

‘Soft drink’ bribe lands taxi driver in jail

3460667717Cape Town – A reckless taxi driver who offered a policeman R50 “for a soft drink” has landed in jail for corruption.

Balungile Mapoqa appeared in the Goodwood Regional Court, before magistrate Constance Nziweni, who jailed him for 32 months for trying to bribe the police official, and reckless driving.

The court heard that police intercepted him as he drove his taxi against the traffic in Langa, in Cape Town.

As the police official explained the reason for pulling him over, Mapoqa offered him the R50 for a soft drink. The police official declined the bribe, and instead arrested him on charges of reckless driving and corruption. Mapoqa pleaded not guilty to both counts, and said he had no intention of bribing the policeman.

The offer of R50 was his way of apologising for the driving violation, but he did hope the police would let him go, he said.

 He claimed the road was free of oncoming traffic at the time – disputed by the State – and that he did not endanger the lives of other motorists. The magistrate said Mapoqa had a responsibility to drive extra cautiously whilst carrying passengers, and to obey the rules of the road. She said the courts had a duty to protect the public from abuse and exploitation at the hands of corrupt people, and to deter would-be offenders.

She said corruption was endemic in the country, and she agreed with prosecutor Daniel Cloete that “stiff” sentences were required to stop corrupt people from offering bribes to police officials. If allowed to go unpunished, corruption had the potential to destroy the very fabric of society, she said.

Crime stats to now be released quarterly

Cape Town – Crime statistics will now be released every quarter, instead of annually, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said on Thursday.

In addition, the South African Police Service would publish one annual comprehensive report, he told journalists following Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting.

It would allow government to respond to crime trends more rapidly and contribute to the national development plan’s aim to build safer communities.

The annual report would accommodate changes to quarterly statistics, due to factors like cases being solved.

Parliament’s police committee chairperson Francois Beukman welcomed the decision and said it would strengthen accountability.

“It will enable closer scrutiny of crime trends and ensure that proactive, effective decisions and interventions are made in hotspot areas,” he said.

How to avoid being hijacked

Hijacking is a crime all too prevalent on South African roads. While much is being done to target organised syndicates marauding our roads, the first and most effective line of defence is awareness.

Most hijackings take place in people’s drive ways, at traffic lights, post offices, outside schools or when vehicles are stopped on the side of the road. More aggressive syndicates will force cars off the road depending on how desperate they are to get their hands on a vehicle.

“Hijackers will often research their victims’ behaviour thoroughly before making their move, and being more streetwise in terms of what to look out for is our first port of recourse,” says Gary Ronald, Head of Public Affairs at the AA.

The following tips are simple ways to ensure you are more prepared in the event of being a hijack target:

Be aware of your surroundings as you approach your house. Often we switch to autopilot, taking the same route day in and day out. Change your route and check your rear-view mirror for strange cars following you. Hijackers may also be waiting for you, so be aware of the different vehicles parked in your area at different times of the day. If you feel threatened, do a drive by and call in for protection. Other precautionary measures such as ensuring that your driveway is well lit and that you have clear lines of communication with your neighbours are simple ways of protecting yourself.

It’s best to practise safe driving as a habit so that it becomes second nature, with awareness of your surroundings being tantamount for your protection. Locking your doors should be as second nature as fastening your seatbelt. Leaving a 3cm gap in your windows is a great precaution against smash and grabs as this reduces the tension and may prevent the glass from breaking. If you are stopping behind another vehicle, leave at least half a vehicle length in front of your vehicle to allow you some manoeuvring space should you need to make an escape.

If you can, try not to drive alone at night and if you are a woman, a great trick is to keep a cap in your boot to wear as a disguise. -Star Motoring

Third arrest after Rhodes Park horror

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21 December 2015 at 09:08am

Johannesburg – A third suspect has been arrested in connection with the Rhodes Park rape and murders.

A 33-year-old man was nabbed on Friday in Sunnyside Park, Pretoria, according to Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.

Two other suspects, aged 22 and 24, were arrested – one in October and the other last month.

“The two men, identified as Edmor Ndlovu and Thabo Nkala, have already been charged and also appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court last week,” Dlamini said.

The third man was expected to appear in the same court on Monday on charges of rape and murder.

All three men are believed to have been part of a gang of 12 who killed two men and raped a woman at Rhodes Park in Kensington on October 17.

At the time, Dlamini said the two men and their wives were walking in the park when they were confronted by a group of men. The suspects allegedly tied up both men and threw them into the dam at the park, where they drowned. One of their wives was raped but the other woman managed to escape.

“It is alleged that one of the suspects was armed with a handgun,” Dlamini said.

“A reward of up to R100 000 will be offered to anyone who comes forward with information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of the other men who police are still looking for,” Dlamini said.

Anyone with information should call Warrant Officer Bruce van der Schyff on 082 651 7769 at all hours.

Information can also be forwarded to Crime Stop at 08600 10111 at all hours.

Beware of thugs spoiling Christmas

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December 14 2015 at 06:28pm
By SAKHILE NDLAZI

Pretoria – It is people’s favorite time of the year with most switching off from work mode and either embarking on their Christmas holiday, shopping or eating out frequently.

With everyone in a jovial mood, December is synonymous with spending and cheerfulness, but that can quickly turn into a nightmare with criminals preying on and lurking around the unsuspecting.

The SA Insurance Crime Bureau has warned that people should be more diligent and more aware than usual at this time of the year.

“People are either more relaxed or not as vigilant at this time of year, or simply in a rush and not paying enough attention to the risk of criminal activity,” said Hugo van Zyl, the bureau’s chief operating officer.

The bureau warned people to be on the lookout for car jamming, fender bender car hijackings, violent house robberies and airport followings.

With “car jamming”, criminals prey on people preoccupied at shopping centres, remote-jamming their vehicles and helping themselves to the contents left in the vehicles.

“Christmas shopping and holiday luggage could be rich pickings. This is an easy and effective opportunity for criminals to relieve you of your valuables,” said Van Zyl.

“In the “fender bender” type of crime, the criminal will cause an accident doing minimal damage to the target’s vehicle. As the victim exits the vehicle the criminal either uses a weapon to take the keys, or simply gets in and drives off.”

“Therefore be aware of your surroundings if you have a fender bender. Remove your keys from the car if you exit the vehicle. If you are not comfortable with the circumstances of an accident and there are no injuries, drive directly to the nearest police station, or a densely-occupied area to try to ensure your safety as far as possible.”

Regarding household security, do not be lax. Ensure that you follow the same security procedures as you normally would during the year. Be aware if your neighbours are away, so that if you hear activity next door you can react appropriately.

Test your alarms and armed response to be prepared.

The bureau and SAPS have noted a distinct upturn in the number of airport followings over the past few months. This is where spotters at the airport identify a target. They may then follow their target home, rob them at gunpoint or in some cases they will use a blue light to stop their target.

“If you are not comfortable stopping for a blue light, then try to proceed to the nearest police station or draw the attention of other law enforcement officers in the area.

“When entering your residence always be aware of possibly being followed. Even if entering a secure estate environment criminals are not scared to use the minute or two that you stop at security to strike,” said Van Zyl.

“All these crimes rely on the victims being distracted, relaxed and generally not being diligent and aware of the situation,” said Van Zyl.

When you are out, or shopping at a mall with children, remember these tips to keep your holidays happy and safe:

*Hold your children’s hand tightly in the parking lots and malls;

*Never leave your children in the car, even if it’s only for a minute;

*If children get lost in a mall they should go to mall security immediately;

*If they need to use the washroom at the mall, go in with them or stand at the door until they come out.

Man shot dead in shoot-out with cops

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December 6 2015 at 11:19am
By ANA Reporter

Durban – A man possibly linked to police killings and the Seven Oaks shoot-out with police was shot dead in another shoot-out with police in KwaMashu, Durban, while his alleged accomplice was arrested, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Sunday.

KwaMashu police were patrolling KwaMashu and surrounding areas at about 5.30pm on Saturday when they received information about suspects in possession of unlicensed firearms at KwaMashu men’s hostel, spokesman Major Thulani Zwane said.

The officers called for back-up from the Durban flying squad, K9 unit, and Inanda police cluster task team, and an operation was launched, he said. “A house was identified at the hostel and there were more than 15 suspects inside.

“It was penetrated and when the suspects noticed that they were approached by the police, one of them fired shots towards the members and the members retaliated, fatally wounding him.

“A 9mm pistol was found in his possession and the second suspect was also arrested after he was found in possession of a CZ 7.5mm pistol with ammunition. Both suspects are suspected to be involved in police killing in KwaMashu and were part of the gang that escaped from [the] Seven Oaks shooting at Greytown last month,” Zwane said.

The arrested man, 23, was charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition and would appear in the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Zwane said that in a separate incident on Saturday, Phoenix tactical response team members were patrolling in the KwaDukuza area when they followed up information about a suspicious vehicle in the area. A vehicle fitting the description was spotted and stopped. “The driver was searched and was found in possession of a 9mm pistol with ammunition.” It was established that the vehicle was earlier reported stolen in the Hillcrest area.

“On further investigation, the suspect took the members to his homestead at Maphumulo area where they recovered two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition hidden under his bed.

The suspect, 35, was charged accordingly and will appear in the KwaDukuza Magistrate’s Court [on Monday on charges of] possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, as well as possession of [a] suspected stolen vehicle,” Zwane said.

KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Lt-Gen Mmamonnye Ngobeni welcomed the arrests and the recovery of unlicensed firearms. “These firearms will be sent for ballistic tests to establish if they were used in any other crimes in the province.

“Our detectives will work tirelessly to establish if the suspect arrested in KwaDukuza is not linked to the killing of taxi owners in the province,” she said.

Guard killed in Polokwane mall robbery

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November 25 2015 at 07:26pm
By ANA Reporter

Polokwane – A mall in Polokwane was closed on Wednesday after armed robbers shot and killed a security guard near a jewellery store. Two suspects were arrested by police.

Police said a group of armed robbers entered the jewellery store, robbed a client and the shop of an undisclosed amount of cash, and when fleeing the scene, shot a guard who was walking along the mall corridor.

Police spokesperson Captain Ntobeng Phala said: “The suspects came out running from the shop and the guard was on the corridor, walking and when he notice the robbery he attempted to grab one suspect and was shot.”

The guard was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Phala said they were still verifying the value of the jewellery that was stolen during the heist.

Eyewitnesses said the guard was walking from the shop where he had just bought his lunch when the incident took place. A 2 litre Coke, sliced polony and a loaf of bread could be seen lying close to his body.

Phala said the security officer was not attached to the store but had been contracted to the mall company.

He said two suspects were arrested after they were linked to the crime through surveillance investigations.

“We found them hiding somewhere along the road, it appears their co-suspects left them behind when they fled the scene,” said Phala.

Other suspects allegedly fled in a white Hilux bakkie, but Phala said preliminary investigations showed that the bakkie had a false registration number plate.

Our investigations shows that the registration number was of a BMW, which means that the suspects had a false number plate,” he said.