SAFETY TIPS

Driveway Hijacking

One form of crime that is becoming increasingly popular is driveway hijacking.

  • Be ready for the unexpected. The hijacker can strike at any time.
  • Be very cautious when entering or leaving your driveway.
  • Have an emergency plan. What route could you use as an escape route?
  • Decide which is the best way to escape if there were an attempted hijacking in your driveway. Could you drive down the pavement, or over a concrete island for example?
  • Make sure you are not followed to or from your home. If you are followed, go to the nearest police station or a place where there are many people. Avoid quiet streets or areas.
  • When approaching your home, look around for any suspicious loiterers or vehicles and report them to the authorities immediately.
  • If there is the remotest possibility that you could be attacked, drive on. Do not enter a potentially dangerous situation. Drive to the nearest telephone and alert the police or your security company.
  • When leaving your premises, always try to face the road. Try not to reverse.
  • Keep a lookout and be prepared to drive away quickly, if you must. Be careful never to endanger your life.
  • If you do not already have a remote-controlled gate, you may want to consider installing one.
  • Avoid establishing fixed patterns. This increases the risk of victimisation by observant, potential hijackers.
  • If you arrive home and become suspicious that something is out of place, for example your dogs don’t welcome you as they usually do, don’t get out to check. Rather go immediately to the nearest police station.
  • Be on the alert when fetching post from your post box in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Always keep car doors locked and windows closed.
  • Keep an eye on your neighbours’ houses. Ask them to do the same for you. Report the presence of loiterers to the police.
  • Remember, if you become a victim of carjacking, don’t resist. Your life is more valuable than the most expensive car.
  • Be aware that hijackers sometimes impersonate police or traffic officials. They use vehicles with flashing blue lights and some even have access to police uniforms.

 

Driveway Robberies

  • Turn off your radio when you’re two kilometers from home so you can be more aware of your environment.
  • Be familiar with your area; get to know the newspaper sellers on the corner, for example.
  • Notice how people dress, if a “newspaper seller” or “hawker” is wearing overalls that seem new he might not be who he appears to be.
  • If a driveway robber confronts you put up your hands immediately, don’t try to grab your bag or cell phone: it may look like you’re reaching for a gun.
  • Stay calm, listen to the armed robber and obey commands.
  • Don’t look the driveway robber in the eye.
  • Stay calm, listen to the driveway robber and obey commands.
  • Don’t pretend not to have a bag or wallet. If the driveway robber finds out you’re lying he might shoot / hurt you in anger or out of frustration.
  • Don’t throw your keys away. It will just make your attacker angry.

If you lie face down outside the car he might not force you to get back in.

Prevent smash and grab incidents

Some pleasant rides have been turned into nightmares by people who pounce on unsuspecting drivers. They smash the window or open the unlocked door and grab whatever they regard as of value.

Whether your vehicle is moving or stationary, bear the following in mind:

  • Don’t leave your cell phone or other valuables where they are visible in the car. This will attract thieves who may break your car window.
  • Lock all your doors and close all the windows. Thieves steal handbags and other valuables by opening car doors or even breaking windows while the car is stationary at traffic lights or stuck in slow moving traffic.
  • Do not have bags, briefcases visible in the vehicle. Lock all valuables in the boot of your car or behind the seat if it is a bakkie.
  • Be constantly on the lookout for suspicious looking characters. Do not hesitate to report them to the police.
  • When approaching the red traffic light at night, slow down so that you can only reach it when it turns green.
  • Be wary of people standing at traffic lights or intersections. They may be innocent but perpetrators mix with these people while waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
  • Never open your vehicle window or door for any stranger.
  • If you encounter obstacles in the road eg. rocks, tyres etc. do not get out of your vehicle to remove them. Rather reverse and drive in the opposite direction.
  • Thieves target car parks. Always park your car in attended parking lots.
  • When parking at night ensure that you always park in a well-lit area.
  • Never sit in your vehicle without being conscious of your surroundings.
  • Sleeping in a stationary vehicle is particularly dangerous.
  • Always remove radios, CD or cassette players if possible.
  • Never leave children alone in a vehicle, not even for a moment. Let them accompany you.

Give heed to warning signs

By having a plan and being prepared, an attack can be prevented. It is, therefore, important to be constantly on the lookout for the warning signs and to report them to ATLAS SECURITY as well as the SAPS. The following are examples of warning signs:

  1. Strangers present in your neighbourhood, strolling or driving about the area without an apparent reason – look for people who look out of place.
  2. Be on the lookout for evidence of the presence of intruders, eg empty bottles, pieces of paper, footprints or shoe prints, cigarette butts and plastic bags.
  3. If you have any concerns, share them with your neighbour.
  4. Note any unusual behaviour of birds or animals – it could indicate human presence.
  5. Be aware of well-clothed strangers standing at pick-up points in the mornings or loitering near the entrance to your property. These strangers normally do not get into one of the usual taxis but are picked up by other vehicles.
  6. Be on the lookout for any unusual behaviour or activity and report it to ATLAS Security or the SAPS.

Create a ‘Safe Room’ in your home

  • The sleeping area or upstairs is the most practical safety zone, protecting you when you are the most vulnerable (asleep).
  • This safety area gives you the time to wake up and provides an area to escape into case of an emergency.
  • Install a passage gate and secure all windows so at least your whole family is safe or has an area to escape into.

Assess the weak points in your home

  • Have a look at your home from a criminal’s point of view.
  • Insert bars in the sliding door track, so if an intruder does crow bar the lock open he won’t be able to gain access without creating a lot of noise.
  • Secure all sliding doors as these are the easiest to force open.
  • Secure all swing doors, even if they are solid wood as the lock is easily broken with the right tools. 80% of forced entries are through doors as it is easy to carry loot out of and is a quick trouble free escape route should they be disturbed.
  • Evaluate your garden. Look for hiding places and dark areas at night, Special emphasis on trees that enable burglars to climb and get access to unprotected windows or the roof.
  • Look for low walls and don’t allow ladders to be left standing outside the house.
  • Place a security gate on any door leading directly from your garage into your house, separating the garage from your home

Lighting

  • Outside lighting is a good deterrent enabling you to see out at night and at the same time making it difficult for the criminal to see inside.
  • Make sure that the lights are well out of reach to prevent intruders from tampering with them.

Dogs

  • Dogs are a great first line of defense but are only as effective as you train them, consistently reward them for barking at strangers, acting aggressive etc.
  • It’s a good idea to keep one dog outside and another in doors at night when you are asleep, they are sure to wake you if someone is trying to gain access. When inside the dog can’t be beaten into submission, chased away, poisoned or sprayed with any chemical without alerting you.

Cost Effective Defences

  • Plant thorny trees, cacti and shrubs in places that you want to discourage access such as around your perimeter walling.
  • If your door opens inside, a horizontal bar can be placed across it. Should the lock be broken the door still won’t open. It can only be operated from the inside.
  • Security lights are economical and alert neighbours, dogs, yourself and make intruders uncomfortable as well as exposing them when the police or armed response officers arrive.

Be Prepared

  • DON’T PANIC.
  • Establish an action plan with your family so every one is prepared in the case of a attempted break in. Remember you could be confused and half asleep, so a previously established routine is vital.
  • Teach your family to be security conscious with regards to locking gates and doors, assertiveness with strangers, awareness, lighting etc.
  • Ensure that all your internal doors are operating correctly and that all the locks are in good condition.
  • Before going to bed, have dark clothing on a special hanger so if you need to get up at night to investigate, it will be difficult to spot you. Leave a slight gap in your curtains so the intruder does not see them move when you are looking out side.
  • A good quality fully charged torch is invaluable and should be placed next to your bed every night.
  • Have your cell phone on hand at all times to call for help and inform help of vital information such as:
    1. Your personal details
    2. How many intruders there are?
    3. Where are they?
    4. Have they gained access?
    5. Are they armed?
    6. What they are wearing, a description if possible?
    7. Who else is on the premises such as domestic help etc?
  • Save all emergency numbers in your cell phone and continuously update them so there is no time wasted in calling for help
  • Don’t ignore any strange noises.
  • Don’t go outside, rather call Atlas or the police to investigate.
  • Before using lethal force to protect yourself, ensure you know the law.
  • Make sure all weapons are easily accessible and you can locate them without turning on the lights and alerting the intruder.
  • Pepper Spray is a great weapon to subdue an attacker and if there is a case of mistaken identity it’s uncomfortable, not lethal. Keep it in convenient places like on the wall near the front door, next to the bed etc.
  • Be careful. Treat every situation seriously, you don’t want to be caught in a vulnerable situation.

When parking your vehicle

  • Check your rear-view mirror to ensure that you are not being followed.
  • When returning home after dark, ensure that there is an outside light on or have someone meet you at the door.
  • When exiting your vehicle, be cautious and aware of surrounding obstructions and shrubbery that may be concealing a hijacker.
  • Never sit in your parked car without being conscious of your surroundings. Sleeping in a stationery vehicle is particularly dangerous.
  • When approaching your driveway, be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles/persons.

How to Avoid a Hijack Situation

Take precautions:

  • Be familiar with your environment.
  • Get to know who belongs in the vicinity of your home or workplace and who does not.
  • Keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary.
  • Lock all doors and close windows before driving off.
  • Try to vary your route to work, gym, etc – all places you travel to regularly.
  • Hijackers are professionals too; they plan their attacks carefully.
  • Ensure all your mirrors are adjusted to give you an optimal all-round view of your surroundings.
  • Try to stop about 5m behind the car in front of you at a stop sign or traffic light – it makes for an easy getaway if trouble arises.

Don’t be fooled by:

  • False appeals for help.
  • “Accidents” such as having you car rammed from behind.
  • Someone trying to get help from a stationary car.
  • Your electric gates being jammed

Know your environment:

If your suspicions are aroused by any person or vehicle in a high-risk area, treat them as hostile and take appropriate action (i.e. ignore a red robot if it is safe to drive through or turn off and speed away from the perceived danger zone) and call for assistance where necessary.

  • Always have your identity document and driver’s licence in your possession and a pen and notepad ready to make necessary notes.
  • If possible, avoid driving in the dark. Hijackers may stage a minor accident, e.g. if your car is bumped from behind and you do not feel comfortable with the individual/s involved in the situation, drive to the nearest Police Station for help.
  • Never open your vehicle window or door for any stranger. If a suspicious person is near your unoccupied car, do not approach the vehicle. Keep walking to the nearest public area and ask for assistance.

The different types of hijackings

  • The “Freight” hijacking is when a commercial vehicle is hijacked, not only to secure the vehicle, but also its cargo, which can be of substantial value. Frequently, the cargo is of more interest to the hijacker than the truck.
  • The “Transport” hijacking is when the vehicle is taken for the express purpose of using it as transport during other crimes, such as drug trafficking, burglaries, bank robberies and gun running. The vehicles are probably later cannibalised for spare parts or simply dumped.
  • The “Syndicate” hijacking is the most organised of all and often has international connections. A network of hijacking groups is established with the overall co-ordinator syndicating out work so that he remains out of view in exactly the same way as the “drug barons” use pushers. This makes identifying and arresting the ultimate boss very difficult. Additionally, a syndicate is often backed by a lot of money, especially if there are international links and makes full use of any opportunity to bribe the authorities in order to protect their operations.

When entering your vehicle and while driving

  • Have your key ready, but not visible.
  • Inspect the outside and inside of the vehicle before unlocking it.
  • Know your destination and directions to it, and be alert should you get lost.
  • Always drive with your windows and doors locked and/or closed.
  • Make a mental note of any Police Stations in the vicinity while driving.
  • When dropping a passenger off, make sure that they are safely in their own vehicle before departing.
  • Avoid driving through high crime or unfamiliar areas.
  • Avoid driving late at night or in the early hours of the morning when the roads are quiet.
  • Drive in the centre lane away from pedestrians where possible.
  • If possible, never drive alone.
  • NEVER pick up hitch-hikers.
  • Never follow routine routes when driving; change your routes on a regular basis.
  • Do not leave windows open more than 5cm.

What to do in a hijacking situation

In many instances victims were injured or killed during the incident. Applying the following tips could save your life.

Always try to remain calm and do not attempt to show any signs of aggression.

  • Be compliant to all demands set by the perpetrator.
  • Do not threaten or challenge the hijacker.
  • Do not stare the hijacker in the eyes, he may perceive this action to be a threat and act more aggressively.
  • Keep your hands still and where the person can see them so as to give him the assurance of your passive intent.
  • Do not make fast movements
  • Do not attempt any form of evasive or counter action unless you are suitably qualified.
  • Do not lose your temper or act aggressively.
  • Do not become panic-stricken, panic is contagious and can compound an already difficult situation.
  • If you speak too fast, use slangy language or swear it can be seen as a threat.
  • Make notes after the incident to ensure that you can give accurate, detailed information for the police

Holiday Safety Tips

  • Pull your vehicle into the garage when you pack your suitcases. Doing this in full view of the street will alert everyone of your intended holiday.
  • A week or two before leaving on vacation, phone Atlas and notify the monitoring control centre of the dates that you will be away as well as test your alarm system with the monitoring control centre. By doing this early, you will be able to schedule a service call if something is wrong.
  • Leave a key with a friend so that they can collect any mail left in the letterbox. (Do NOT label the keys with your address or even your house number in case they fall into the wrong hands.
  • Make sure that your prepaid telephone and electricity are topped up.
  • Make sure that all your valuables are stored in a safe place. Put any jewelery in a home safe. Ensure you have serial numbers of your valuables.
  • Cancel deliveries of newspapers etc discreetly – don’t announce your departure to a shop full of people – tell only those who need to know.
  • Even cutting the lawn before you go away can help to make it look less obvious that the house in unoccupied.
  • Before you finally leave, lock all outside doors and windows and set your burglar alarm. Lock the garage and shed with proper security locks and don’t leave any ladders or tools lying

How to avoid mugging

Unfortunately, mugging is one of the common crimes that unaware people fall victim to in the streets and shopping malls every day. The following are just some of the simple measures that you can take so that you are not targeted.

  • Look around you and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Remember, an area is not safe just because you are familiar with it.
  • Walk actively and confidently.
  • You must always try to make eye contact with the people around you.
  • Carry your bag around your neck and diagonally across your body.
  • Do not carry it hanging over one shoulder. You may as well clutch your bag and hold it to the front.
  • Put your wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket, not a back pocket.
  • Walk in well-lit busy streets and walk in a group if possible.
  • If you know or suspect that a pedestrian is following you, go to the nearest well-lit or busy area and call the police.
  • If you are followed by a vehicle, never try to outrun it.
  • Turn and walk in the opposite direction.
  • React by yelling or shouting if possible.
  • Carry money or phone cards for emergency phone calls.
  • Hide your cellphone.
  • Do not walk around talking on a cellphone as it will distract you from things going on around you.
  • Avoid going out unnecessarily after hours.
  • Avoid taking shortcuts through deserted areas such as parks, empty areas and passages.

How to avoid being a victim

With an increasing number of brazen criminals targeting individuals, it is important that you know how to protect yourself from becoming a victim as well as what to do in the event of being targeted. Here are few tips to bear in mind:

  • Know all emergency numbers by heart or place them on speed dial;
  • If in doubt about the safety of an area, phone a police station for advice;
  • Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you
  • Wherever you are, on the street, in an office building or shopping malls, driving or waiting for a bus at a stop, stay alert ;
  • Try not to walk at remote places at night;
  • Know the neighbourhoods where you live and work;
  • Trust your instinct;
  • Inform someone of your destination beforehand no matter the distance or time you expect to be gone for;
  • Limit your trips at night or at least take someone along with you;
  • Never let a stranger use your phone;
  • Never admit you are alone;
  • Send the message you are calm, confident and know what you are doing;
  • Never resist, especially if there is a weapon involved;
  • Activate your house and car alarm;
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of money.
  • When leaving your house for long periods, don’t mention it on your answering machine.

Preventing vehicle theft

  • A criminal needs only a few minutes to break into or steal your vehicle. The following guidelines will help you to reduce the risk of vehicle theft, whether you are at home or just popping into the shops for a short while.
  • Parking: Park your vehicle in a safe place that is well lit. If you can, park your vehicle behind locked gates or in the garage. The most common place where vehicles are stolen is in the street outside your home.
  • Security systems: Install a tracker, immobiliser and alarm system in your vehicle. Remember to activate your alarm system and other security equipment at all times.
  • Locking: Lock your vehicle and close all the windows properly, whether at home or in a
  • public place.
  • Valuables: Any valuables such as handbags, cell phones and shopping parcels are a
  • temptation for any criminal. Put them out of sight in the boot of your vehicle.
  • Be alert: Be on the lookout for suspicious persons in the area – ordinary vagrants are not the people who steal vehicles.

Securing your vehicle

  • Always keep your vehicle in a mechanically sound condition in order to avoid breakdowns of any kind. This is when you are most vulnerable.
  • Ensure that your vehicle has a lockable fuel tank cap.
  • Ensure that your vehicle has an efficient immobiliser and alarm, if possible. Carry a vehicle steering wheel lock and use it whenever you leave and lock your car.

Things to carry in your vehicle

  • A tow rope
  • Jumper leads for your battery
  • A torch or spot light which must be regularly tested
  • A road map
  • Any medical alert information regarding your health and requirements
  • A complete first aid kit
  • A fire extinguisher that is suitable for vehicle fires.

Things not to be left in your vehicle

  • The vehicle registration papers
  • Any documents giving your name and address, or those of your family
  • Family photographs
  • Firearms
  • Vehicle and house keys
  • Cheque books and credit cards

Vehicle expert security advice:

  • If you are hijacked, don’t take risks. Your life is far more important than your car.
  • Always keep your doors locked and windows closed enough to prevent an arm entering your vehicle. A slightly opened window is far more difficult to smash than a fully closed one.
  • Be aware at all times, especially when leaving and entering your driveway.
  • Make sure there are no bushes, walls or any other hiding places around your driveway.
  • When arriving home look out for any suspicious vehicles or pedestrians. If there is, DON’T STOP, circle the area to check or call the police.
  • Reverse into your garage and watch the doors close to prevent a hijacker from slipping into the garage unnoticed. If you see him, you can speed out easily. It’s also better to be facing the front when leaving the garage you can immediately identify suspicious situations and escape without reversing and changing gears.
  • An automated gate is a lot safer than a manually operated one for obvious reasons. However always watch until it has fully closed.
  • If you suspect you are being followed, drive straight to the nearest police station or look for a crowded area. Avoid quite dark areas.
  • When stopping in traffic always ensure you have an escape route. Leave enough space in front of your vehicle and the one in front of you big enough to quickly escape.
  • Always be aware, when you stop, continuously scan the area around your car paying particular attention to the blind spots and people in the immediate vicinity such as hawkers.

Although Port Elizabeth has been considered a relatively safe town when compared to cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town, it is quickly losing that status as more violent and organized crime hits our city. The friendly city is also a little laid back, meaning that we don’t expect bad things to happen to us and generally have a much more benevolent view of the world. This unfortunately makes us easy targets and often leaves us devastated when targeted.

Being surprised by intruders in the sanctity of your home is a harrowing thought, yet it is happening only too often. These scenarios are being played out daily where homeowners are attacked and held up while the perpetrators raid the house. Being proactive is the only way to prevent being a statistic. Part of your defence is to ensure that your security system is armed when you are in the house.

These statistics act as a warning for the rest of the community as we need to become more and more proactive. Break-ins while people are at home have risen again, becoming a disturbing crime trend in the Metro. The high incident rate in the Metro could largely be attributed to the vulnerability of home owners. Numerous homes failed to have any burglar bars in tact. Doors without security gates and door viewers adds to vulnerability.

These criminals will always arrive in groups of more than 2 people. The one robber’s job description is to occupy the family while the other one or two continue raiding the house.

Burglars have also increasingly taken to gaining access to premises via the roof, a security weak spot if not protected, and then disable the alarm even when families are home. Many people also don’t activate their alarms at night when they are most vulnerable. This increases theft and spreads the word that night-time break-ins are lucrative and less risky.

The two trends of intrusion via the roof and night time break-ins could be nipped in the bud, if families were aware of the trends and acted proactively.

ATLAS suggest the following:

  1. Activate alarms at night.
  2. Install a barrier, ideally a security gate that separates the sleeping areas from the main body of the house.
  3. Dogs instinctively protect their territory and “pack” and their keen senses provide an early warning as well as being a deterrent.
  4. Install a detector in your roof, linked to your alarm.
  5. Ensure that your alarm is fitted with a RadioLink that will transmit a signal to the security control room as a back-up in the event that your telephone lines are dead or cut and cannot carry an emergency signal to the control room.

ATLAS clients should at all times be alert and be a step ahead of the criminals. Measures such as perimeter defenses, electric fencing, good lighting, burglar bars and security gates are strongly advised.

Current Newspaper article: Robbers attack students in Summerstand