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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!

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.

Lawyer withdraws from Rhodes Park case

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2015-12-09 19:12

Mpho Raborife, News24

Johannesburg – A lawyer has withdrawn from representing one of the men facing rape and murder charges after allegedly attacking two couples at Rhodes Park in Kensington in October, the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court heard.

On Wednesday afternoon, 24-year-old Thabo Nkala said he had told the court on a previous occasion that he could not afford to pay for a lawyer.

This was after prosecutor, Colleen Ryan, told the court Nkala’s legal representative had opted to withdraw from the matter.

Nkala, who had shaved off his dreadlocks and was smartly dressed in a formal white shirt and black trousers, was appearing for the first time with his co-accused, Admore Ndlovu, 22, who wore a navy blue and gold golf shirt and beige pants.

The matter was postponed to February 8 for further investigation. Both would be represented by a Legal Aid lawyer.

In October, a gang of 12 men allegedly attacked two couples who had gone to the park after a church service in central Johannesburg.

They accosted the couples and beat the two men. They stripped the men and tied their hands and feet with their clothes before throwing them in the lake where they drowned.

One of the women was raped while the other escaped without any physical harm.

Nkala and Ndlovu were arrested in October and November respectively, they have been provisionally charged with two counts of murder, two counts of rape as well as aggravated robbery.

It is understood that both men have not applied for bail because they entered South Africa illegally.

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.

Rhodes Park case: identikits released

December 1 2015 at 01:09pm 2168495714

By Staff reporter

Johannesburg – Police have released the identikits of three men they say may be able to assist with the investigation into the Rhodes Park murder case.

Police are also offering a reward of up to R100 000 for information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of six suspects wanted in connection with the murder and rape cases at Rhodes Park.

Two suspects who have already been charged are due to appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on December 9.

The men are suspected of being part of a gang that attacked two couples as they strolled inside Rhodes Park in Kensington.

The gang allegedly tied the men up, threw them into the lake and left them to drown.

The gang then allegedly raped one of the women. The other woman managed to escape before they could get to her.

Anyone with information may contact the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Bruce van der Schyff, on 082 651 7769 at all hours or Crime Stop at 08600 10111 at all hours.

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.

Five held for Kimberley cash heist

179782370November 16 2015 at 09:21pm
By Getrude Makhafola

Johannesburg – Five people have been arrested in connection with a cash-in-transit in Kimberley, Northern Cape, on Monday.

“The incident took place near a local store at Beaconsfield. At this stage, we are still busy with the investigation to determine how many suspects were involved in the cash-in-transit,” said the police’s Lieutenant Olebogeng Tawana.

“Some of the suspects fled the scene with undisclosed amount of cash, and some of the cash boxes with undisclosed amount of cash have been recovered.”

Police confiscated five firearms and two getaway vehicles.

Meanwhile, in Limpopo, three armed men overpowered security guards who had just collected cash from a shopping centre in Hlogotlou on Monday, police said.

“The guards were robbed of a box containing undisclosed amount of cash. The suspects fired shots before fleeing the scene in two vehicles, a Mercedes Benz and a mortuary vehicle. The mortuary vehicle was later found abandoned 30km away from the scene,” said spokesman Lieutenant Malesela Ledwaba. No arrests were made.

Cops shot after truck hijacked

November 13 2015 at 06:41pm
By ILANIT CHERNICK1632804275

Johannesburg – Two police officers were wounded during a shoot-out with robbers in Benoni on Friday morning.

According to Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini, the incident happened at about 4am on Thomas and High roads.

“Police officers from Crystal Park were following a truck that was allegedly hijacked in Secunda. The truck was being escorted by two vehicles which began to fire actively at police, a chase and shoot-out then ensued,” Dlamini said.

“The two officers were shot, one in the leg and the other in the shoulder. Both were taken to hospital in a stable condition.”

Dlamini could not confirm what the truck was carrying but said it was found abandoned with its load. “Police are still busy on the scene investigating. Three rifles were recovered; one was hidden in a dustbin. No arrests have been made but we are appealing to anyone with information to come forward,” he said.

Dlamini added that a case of attempted murder and robbery had been opened.

In a separate incident on Monday, a female police officer was shot in the head on Soweto’s Golden Highway while on patrol. “A white BMW X3 with tinted windows was spotted near Eldorado Park.

“Feeling that the vehicle was suspicious, the officers tried to stop the vehicle. This is when two of the occupants in the BMW began shooting at the officers with rifles,” he said.

He said the back window was shattered, and she was the only one injured as she was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle. Dlamini said she was still in a critical condition.

Last week a video emerged of a police officer in Brits, North West, being gunned down. The officer was killed while approaching a vehicle.

North West police spokesman Paul Ramaloko said the fatal shot was not from the white vehicle in the video, but from another car 30m away.