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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.


Providing safe return from airport

The Star Page 5 – 23rd May 2017

THE RISE in crimes committed around OR Tambo International Airport, including people being followed home from the airport and robbed, has spawned an interesting and lucrative business.

Vision Tactical is a security company that began in October 2014, which provides private security to homes and businesses in Houghton, Killarney, Norwood and other suburbs in northern Joburg.

Vision Tactical Owner: Yaseen Theba , speaks about the burgeoning crime of being followed back home from the airport.

Recently, the company expanded its security services to include airport escorts, because according to the company’s owner, Yaseen Theba, clients started becoming nervous about coming back from the airport and asked for vehicles to be stationed on driveways outside their homes for safety purposes.

“Then certain people felt nervous about landing at night or early mornings and asked if we could provide a guard inside the car that was going to pick them up.

“But we prefer using our own vehicles to follow our clients, because in the event something happens, we have our rifles and guns in the car.

“If it’s a family pick-up, we don’t like to have firearms in the vehicle when there are children. We prefer following a vehicle and ensuring that a family get home safely,” Theba explained.

Last Monday, a man was shot dead just outside OR Tambo International Airport’s drop-off area, in what was believed to have been a botched hijacking.

HAPPY ABOUT THE SERVICE: Dharmisha Makan speaks about her experience being followed back home from the airport.  Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips

It was this report that convinced Dharmisha Makan to use the escort service for the first time when she and a friend came back from India last week.

“As two women travelling on our own, we definitely felt safe just to know that we’re being followed by a security company that we are familiar with, as they do the guarding at our complex.

“They followed both of us to our homes and we felt safe. So did our family members, who knew we were going to make it home safe,” Makan enthused, adding that she would “definitely” use the service again.

Theba added that he was aware the police were trying to curb the crime of airport followings by doing stop and searches of cars leaving the airport.

“Then certain people felt nervous about landing at night or early mornings and asked if we could provide a guard inside the car that was going to pick them up.

“But we prefer using our own vehicles to follow our clients, because in the event something happens, we have our rifles and guns in the car.

“If it’s a family pick-up, we don’t like to have firearms in the vehicle when there are children. We prefer following a vehicle and ensuring that a family get home safely,” Theba explained.

Last Monday, a man was shot dead just outside OR Tambo International Airport’s drop-off area, in what was believed to have been a botched hijacking.

It was this report that convinced Dharmisha Makan to use the escort service for the first time when she and a friend came back from India last week.

“As two women travelling on our own, we definitely felt safe just to know that we’re being followed by a security company that we are familiar with, as they do the guarding at our complex.

“They followed both of us to our homes and we felt safe. So did our family members, who knew we were going to make it home safe,” Makan enthused, adding that she would “definitely” use the service again.

ON ALERT: A panic button was activated while The Star was patrolling with Vision Tactical in Houghton. It took the response unit roughly three minutes to react, but it turned out to be a false alarm.   Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips

Theba added that he was aware the police were trying to curb the crime of airport followings by doing stop and searches of cars leaving the airport.

But he said some of his clients were apprehensive about the police because of reports that officers – or people disguised as law enforcement personnel – were also part of criminal activity around the airport.

This has to do with the brazen airport heist in March, where more than R20 million was stolen by robbers who, it is believed, included police officers and airport security personnel.

“There are times when people get nervous about being questioned by police.

“People are nervous about sharing information with police at the airport because they are living in fear due to the reports about officers being involved in some of these crimes,” Theba said.

“So, if they know that they are dealing with a security company that they know and trust, they feel a lot more comfortable to talk to the police. That’s what we are trying to do – making people feel a lot safer.”

The company, Theba said, employed only highly skilled personnel, such as Boloka “Bravo 7” Diale.

He is a commander within Vision Tactical, and told The Star he was trained in special weapons and tactics, or Swat, and previously worked for the US Embassy and a cash-in-transit company.

Asked what the scariest part of the job was, Diale asserted: “For me, there is no scary part, because I am used to it. Maybe if I was starting out it would be scary, but right now it’s like having bread with tea.”

Robbery fears as rocks block N12

Johannesburg – Lenasia residents are worried about the obstacles thrown on the stretch of the N12 between the Golden Highway and Lenasia, apparently by robbers and hijackers targeting unsuspecting motorists.

The community in the south of Joburg is appealing for more police visibility in the area. Various objects, including rocks, boulders and debris, are being used to block the road.

“When motorist get out of their cars to remove these obstacles, it provides a perfect opportunity for robbers and hijackers. We call for help from authorities,” said community leader Khalil Mohamed yesterday.

How to avoid being hijacked

At the weekend, about 60 residents and members of neighbourhood organisation, Block Watch, offered their vehicles to remove the obstacles.

At the end the clean up, four bakkies and a trailer were filled with rocks. Mohamed, who helped organise the campaign, said they removed objects lined road from the Golden Highway to Samfur Bridge. JMPD spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane said the N12 and the N1 were the hotspots for stone throwers.

A considerable number of hijacking incidents were reported on that stretch of the N12, said Mamonyane.

The Star

White Merc gang on the prowl

1632804275Johannesburg – A gang using a white Mercedes-Benz have been targeting the residents of Houghton over the past two months.

The gang of five men have been involved in numerous armed robberies and hijackings in the upmarket suburb.

Yaseen Theba, from Vision Tactical, said they had been getting reports about incidents involving the white Mercedes since the beginning of December and, on Sunday, the security company spotted the car and gave chase.

But they lost sight of it as it disappeared on Louis Botha Avenue near Alexandra. The registration number of the Mercedes is unknown.

Theba said there had been 12 sightings of the car in Houghton since December. It has a sunroof, tinted windows and LED lights on the bumper.

The gang of five wear masks and gloves. Their modus operandi is to lift up electronic gates to gain access to properties.

About three weeks ago, a man driving a white Mercedes ML stopped at an Engen service station to draw money. Shortly afterwards, on the corner of Glenhove Road and Fifth Street, he was held up. Cash and his watch were taken and the men drove off in his car, Theba said.

The car was recovered a few blocks away, and witnesses saw the gang get into a white Mercedes that was waiting for them, and drive off.

“We suspect they noticed his watch at the petrol station,” Theba added.

Last Thursday morning, the gangsters entered the house of a businessman and held him and two assistants at gunpoint. They made off with valuables and a light-metallic grey Audi Q5.

Theba said the men are well dressed, and on a few occasions, they have been seen driving around the suburb with three men and a woman in the car.

They were stopped once or twice by various security companies in the neighbourhood. The officers were told that the men were brothers and were just dropping their sister off.

“We have noticed that they aren’t stealing cellphones or iPads or any electronics that can be traced.

“They are taking cash, jewellery and watches,” Theba pointed out.

Crime Line has appealed to anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the robbers to SMS 32211 or call Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

If the car is spotted, call 10111.

Crime Line’s Yusuf Abramjee said indications were that the robbers were well organised.

The Star