Crime

SA’s hijacking frontline

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They make it their aim and drive to learn everything they can about the vehicles they take and how they operate. There are syndicates out there that will purchase anti-theft devices and learn everything about how they operate and how to circumvent their operational abilities. 

In Gauteng there is a well known area of the N3 between Heidelberg and Johannesburg that has been the area of many hijackings. It is located close to Vosloorus and the 1 Stop fuel stop in that area. When the trucks stop at the fuel stop they are often hijacked there and taken elsewhere.

The other trick is putting an obstacle in the slow lane of the highway causing the truck to slow enough for the scumbags to jump onboard. The other areas in Johannesburg:  the William Nicol Drive off-ramp near the N1 from Sandton, the corner of Old Pretoria Road and 1st Avenue in Alexandra, the New Road off-ramp in Midrand and the Christiaan de Wet Road and Wilgerood Road intersection in Roodepoort. However, these are unconfirmed and I always tell clients that they should be mindful of the area they are travelling in.

Typical and unusual cases

The cases I’ve encountered in the past have all been pretty unusual, no two are alike. From cars being taken hours before they have been reported to recovering the vehicles within 20 minutes of the vehicle being reported.

I remember one of my clients calling me saying that a truck had been hijacked at around 19h00 and that I shouldn’t worry too much as it is probably gone by now. The truck was taken at the notorious N3 / Vosloorus hotspot and had last repeated on a highway close to Alberton. The client said that the tracking unit had most probably been taken out and the chance of recovery was minimal.

I left my base and headed to the last known location determined to retrieve the truck, thinking that the driver had by now been dropped off along the highway. This wasn’t true as the client informed me en route that the driver had been taken with the truck. As I neared the last known location, I felt that if the unit was pulled out and the truck was gone I would have to focus on getting the driver back safely.

I did manage to locate the truck about 200 meters from the last known location on the side of the road. The driver was with the truck and thankfully the load was also intact. The hijacker did manage to not only remove the unit, but also damaged the fuel management unit causing the truck to lose fuel and stop.

Our best recovery, which is imprinted into my memory, was when a vehicle was hijacked in the CBD and taken with the driver and a two year old. The information we received was that the driver and the two year old had been locked in the boot of the car. We followed the investigation and search teams scrambling all over JHB looking for the vehicle. We managed to get the cellphone number of the driver and dialled the number. He answered and was very confused and dazed.

We managed to get a location of where he was by getting him to describe the area he was in. It took us 10 minutes to do what search teams had taken four hours to do. We recovered the car, the driver and the two year old and reunited the child with her mother.   

Best way to defuse situations

The best way to defuse a situation is to not get into it in the first place. However, if you find yourself in a situation that is volatile, the best is to back away and rethink the situation. Going in guns blazing isn’t always the best way to do things, but is sometime needed. To date, I can thank God that I haven’t been in a situation that has gotten out of hand. I tend to communicate on a level that is non-threatening and can defuse the worst of situations.

Clients

We have a variety of business’ that use us. Mostly vehicle tracking companies, but we do have the odd trucking company that calls us when their tracking provider fails to deliver. We also recover and repossess for companies that have loaned vehicles or rental vehicles that haven’t been returned.

Technology

Technology is a big part of my business. We use the latest GPS tracking devices in most of our vehicles nowadays and getting pinpoint location details is easy, should the provider have his refresh settings or polling settings set to a shorter time interval.

For example, some providers poll at between 45 minutes and an hour. This is shocking as it doesn’t take long for a thief to get a good head start on you in 45 minutes, and if the vehicle is moving, it can make it very difficult to get to where the vehicle is when you are always 45 minutes behind the eight ball. Some companies ensure that their units repeat on 30 second intervals. This gives us a real time tracking capability and makes it easy for us to predict where the vehicle is going.

Dangers

Well I can definitely say that each job has it unforeseen dangers. Each hijacking that I attend to is always treated seriously as the suspects on scene could be armed and most probably are. If the vehicle is taken by force then it will be defended by the same means. Repossessions are also met with the same resistance from time to time. That is why I always insist that my agents are armed and have a bulletproof vest on with each job. I do not and never want to have to call an agents’ family member to inform them that their loved one has passed away due to carelessness. 

Tony Dobson

 

PULL QUOTE: Each hijacking that I attend to is always treated seriously as the suspects on scene could be armed

 

PULL QUOTE: It took us 10 minutes to do what search teams had taken four hours to do

 

 

 

 

 

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