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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!

Minors arrested for alleged armed robbery in Killarney

Rosebank Killarney Gazette

by Shanice Naidoo

KILLARNEY – Three suspects have been arrested for armed robbery on 6 July.

The three suspects that were arrested in Killarney by Hillbrow police for alleged armed robbery.

Three suspects have been arrested by Hillbrow police for allegedly terrorising the Killarney community over the past few days, said Vision Tactical director Yaseen Theba.

“Over the past few days, we received reports that young children in the Killarney area were being harassed by a group of thugs that were allegedly robbing them of cell phones and money. Some domestics workers and gardeners also confirmed that the suspects were young and not from the area,” explained Theba.

On 6 July a group of young boys ran into the park terrified after their money and phones were taken. The incident took place on 3rd and 2nd Avenue in Killarney.

The spokesperson for Hillbrow Police Station Sergeant Mduduzi Zondo confirmed that the incident had in fact taken place at around 1 pm and that some of the suspects that were arrested are still minors. He also confirmed that a stolen cellphone was recovered and that one suspect allegedly had a knife with him.

The young victims approached the Vision Tactical park safety ambassador and reported that the suspects had threatened to shoot and stab them if they didn’t hand over their phones and cash. The group of young boys were on their way to play in the park when they were approached by the suspects in the vicinity of the park.

Vision Tactical park safety ambassador Eric Minnie, whose quick response resulted in the apprehension of three alleged robbers in the Killarney area.

“The park safety ambassador immediately communicated with other Vision Tactical guards in the area and gave them a description of the suspects. They were spotted running towards the Wilds and the guards chased them,” added Theba.

The guards were backed up by the Tactical team. When members of the Vision Tactical team searched the suspects they allegedly found a knife, cash and the stolen phone.

Zondo said the suspects have not been linked to any cases at this stage, but police are currently investigating claims that the suspects were involved in other robberies.


FIRE SAFETY TIPS

Check Your Smoke Alarms

  1. Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire. They are a critical first step for staying safe, but in order to be effective, they have to be working properly.
  2. For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area and in each bedroom.
  3. Consider installing a smoke alarm that has a good battery.

Create and Practice a Fire Escape Plan

  1. Create and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room.
  2. As part of your plan, designate one person to get infants and small children out safely. Have a back-up plan for young children just in case the primary person is overcome by smoke.
  3. Smoke is toxic. Teach children to “get low and go” if there is smoke when they are leaving the home.
  4. Practice feeling the door, doorknob and cracks around the door with the back of your hand to see if they are too hot. Help your children practice this step.
  5. Choose a place to meet outside that is a safe distance away from your home.

In an Emergency, Leave Home Immediately

  1. In the event of a fire, leave your home immediately. Once you’re out of the house, stay out.
  2. Wait to call the Fire Department until after you are out of the home.

If You Live in an Apartment, Pull the Alarm

  1. If there is a fire and you don’t hear the building’s fire alarm, pull the nearest fire alarm “pull station” on your way out.
  2. Know all of your building’s fire escape exits and use the stairs to get out. Don’t use the elevator.

If You’re Stuck Inside, Cover the Areas Where Smoke Might Come In

  1. If you cannot safely escape your home or apartment, keep smoke out of the room by covering vents and cracks around the door, and call the SAPS 10111or your fire department as quickly as possible.
  2. Then signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.

Keep Flammable Materials in Safe Areas

  1. Remember to keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, and always closely supervise children and pets when the heater is turned on.
  2. Make sure you turn heaters off when you leave the room.
  3. If using gasoline or paraffin powered devices, store it in a locked location where children cannot access it. Keep only small quantities in an approved container that has child safety features.

Don’t Over Plug

  1. To prevent possible fires, avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket.

Stay Focused Around the Kitchen

  1. Use common sense in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don’t leave a hot oven or stovetop unattended.
  2. Keep anything that can catch fire, such as dish towels or wooden spoons, away from your stovetop.
  3. Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of emergency, and make sure you know how it works. You might be surprised that most people don’t know how to use one.

Install Barriers Such as Safety Gates Around Fireplaces, Ovens and Furnaces

  1. Make sure your fireplace is protected by a sturdy screen. Remember that glass screens can take a long time to cool down.
  2. If you are using a fireplace make sure you burn only seasoned hardwood such as oak, ash or maple.
  3. If small children live in or visit your home, use a safety gate around your fireplace.

Blow Out Candles and Store Matches Out of Reach

  1. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and always blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep.
  2. Make a habit of placing matches, gasoline and lighters in a safe place, out of children’s reach. Avoid novelty lighters or lighters that look like toys.
  3. Teach kids never to play with matches and lighters. Make a habit of placing these items up and away from young children.

Vision Tactical SAFETY TIP

 

 safety tip cropped-Vision-Logo.png

  1. Lock the vehicles doors and close all the windows. Thieves often target vehicles in peak times when traffic is heavy and while stationary at an intersection.
  2. Leaving valuable items in plain sight is only further attracting thieves to your vehicle. Ensure they are well hidden. Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. Don’t hesitate to report suspicious looking individuals or vehicles to the police.  Be fully aware of everything surrounding you and your vehicle
  4. Be wary of people standing at traffic lights or intersections. Perpetrators often mix with the most innocent looking people to avoid suspicion
  5. Never open your vehicle window or door for any stranger. Perpetrators often point to the vehicles tyres or lights in an attempt to get the driver to pull over, making their task a lot easier.
  6. Thieves target parking lots. Parking in an area with a parking attendant will limit their opportunities to break into your vehicle.
  7. Do not park in poorly lit parking lots at night. Parking in a well-lit area at night allows you to survey the area before exiting and re-entering your vehicle.
  8. Never leave your children alone in a vehicle. Children innocently allow perpetrators into the vehicle, leaving the child to fend for themselves.
  9. Do not exit your vehicle to remove objects laying in the road. Chances are the object have been put there to force the driver to remove it, making them an easy target
  10. Immediately lock the vehicle doors when you enter or exit your vehicle. Don’t give crooks the opportunity to enter your vehicle. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Report any suspicious activity  to our control room on 084-222-2222

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