We all do our best to prevent becoming victims of crime, but unfortunately the reality of smash and grabs is prevalent in our country. If you haven’t been a victim of a smash and grab theft, then you most likely know someone who has.
This type of theft has been around for many years and it’s unlikely to be resolved any time soon, so it’s up to motorists to protect themselves as much as possible.
There are plenty of informative articles to be found on how best to avoid falling victim to a smash and grab crime in South Africa. Advice varies, but there are a few common threads that really can help you stay safer on the road.
1. Remove temptation
The most important advice is to never have any valuables visible inside your vehicle - whether you’re driving, or if your car is parked. Hiding items in a bag or under a blanket isn’t effective either, as thieves immediately assume you have something valuable if you’re covering it up. The safest option, therefore, is to place everything completely out of sight under seats or in the boot.
Remember that the ‘success’ of a smash and grab is being able to grab items and get away quickly. Culprits are less likely to target you if they’re not 100% sure there is something worth stealing in your car - so keep everything out of sight.
2. Tint and film
If your car doesn’t have tinted windows or anti-smash film, it’s well worth having these applied to all your windows. You need to make it as difficult as possible for your windows to be broken. The tinted film also makes it difficult for anyone to identify objects inside your car. If they can’t see inside, you are less likely to be targeted. This will count for smash and grab incidents on the road, but also if your car is parked in a public area, or even in your driveway.
3. Keep your distance
ou always want a little bit of distance between you and the car in front of you. This in itself is a challenge in peak hour traffic, but train yourself to always leave a gap between your car and the one in front. You want enough space to be able to swerve out, or at least move your car and create a scene should someone try to break your window. Again, remember that these thieves want to get away quickly, so if you have space to move your car they are likely to decide you’re not worth the risk of them getting caught.
4. Stay alert
One of the reasons smash and grab crime remains so popular and lucrative is because it takes advantage of human nature and traffic patterns. Most smash and grab incidents take place early in the morning, or late in the afternoon or early evening when traffic is congested and motorists are often tired and less alert.
After a long day at work many of us are just staring blankly at the vehicle in front and waiting out the traffic until we get home. This is exactly what clever thieves are looking for: motorists who are not paying attention to their surroundings and can easily be caught off guard. The fact that traffic is so congested means they can simply smash a window, grab some goods and quickly get away on foot before anyone can even react.
By staying alert and making eye contact with any pedestrians around your vehicle, you’re showing that you’re not ‘zoned out’ and are less likely to be targeted. By keeping yourself alert, you can also react faster should you become a target.
5. Passengers beware
Many smash and grab incidents target passengers, because they tend to be more relaxed and less alert than the driver. These days most passengers sit with their cell phones on full display in the middle of traffic, making them very easy targets. Open windows, handbags on laps, and passengers absorbed by texting are all temptations for thieves. The best advice is to constantly be aware that you could be a target, whether you’re a driver or a passenger.
In addition to the above points it’s always beneficial to attend an anti-hijacking course, which makes you aware of all the ways you can protect yourself on our roads. Many of the courses also cover general vehicle safety, and what you can do to prevent items being stolen from your car.
It’s sad that the onus falls on the public to protect themselves, but it is the reality. So follow the above guidelines, do your own research, and train yourself to constantly be aware of the fact that you could be a target.