In recent years, South Africa has seen a decline in vehicle thefts. However, the data has been fluctuating in 2023. While some provinces reduced the rate of this crime, others saw a significant increase in the second quarter.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) revealed its latest quarterly statistics -for April to June of this year-, which showed that 5,488 cars were stolen in those three months, averaging to 60 cars per day. This figure represents a 6.4% decrease compared to the same period in 2022. However, monthly data indicates that vehicle thefts grew from 1,742 in April to 1,898 in June, an 8.9% increase.
According to the report, the province with the most significant year-on-year increase was Northwest, with 27.6%. In Mpumalanga, thefts also increased by 17.9%, and Limpopo experienced a rise of 6.2%.
On the other hand, Northern Cape recorded a decrease of 28.6%, followed by Gauteng with -12.1%, Kwa-Zulu Natal with -8.5%, Eastern Cape with -3%, and Free State with -5.5%. Finally, Western Cape had a minimal drop of 0.7%.
Although Gauteng showed positive numbers in comparison to 2022, it remains the region with the highest number of thefts, along with KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape.
In detail, Gauteng recorded 2,735 thefts, it means 49.8% of all vehicle thefts between April and June. The most dangerous areas were Olievenhoutbosch, Protea, Moroka, Orange Farms, and Midrand.
SAPS reported that the most stolen types of vehicles were sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes, which accounted for 47% (2,591) of the seized cars during the studied period, followed by bakkies at 29% (1,582). The top 5 also included Station Wagon (335), minibuses (280), and motorcycles (225).
Regarding the most targeted vehicle models in South Africa, according to Wahl Bartmann, CEO of Fidelity Services Group, they are VW Polo, Toyota Hilux, Toyota Étios, Ford Ranger, Toyota Fortuner, and Nissan NP200.
He also highlighted that Toyota Prado and Toyota Landcruiser are on the list, but Hilux and Fortuner GD6 models are at higher risk.
New Theft Tactics and Recommendations
Becoming a victim of vehicle theft is something we can’t completely prevent. However, there are measures we can try to reduce the risk, as criminals continually find new ways to execute this crime.
Common methods include, for instance, ambushes on unsuspecting drivers, deliberately rear-ending cars in traffic and robbing the drivers when they inspect the damage, or convincing people at traffic lights that something is wrong with their vehicle and stealing it when they step out.
While security tools have been developed over time, thieves have also become more tech-savvy. The same sensors, computers, and data aggregation systems that were originally designed to protect vehicles are now being used as a means to steal them.
Before this context, high-end vehicles often have internet connectivity for functions like wireless software updates or in-cabin Wi-Fi. This allows remote control of the engine, transmission, drivetrain, brakes, suspension, and more.
Criminals have found ways to exploit this, tracking vehicle credentials and data online to pinpoint the car’s exact location and create a fake key signal to easily access it.
This method, as reported by TopAuto, has become popular for keyless entry models in the country. Toyota, for instance, made security improvements, specifically for vehicles in South Africa, to counter this type of theft.
In response, MotorHappy provided recommendations for motorists to avoid becoming victims. Suggestions include using signal-blocking pouches, employing a simple steering wheel lock to keep the car in place, manually checking that the doors are locked, storing the car key as far away from the vehicle as possible to minimize the risk of signal amplification, installing an immobilizer or additional alarm, and regularly updating the car’s security software.
Several South African car insurance companies, including King Price, Momentum, Naked, and Outsurance, recommended disabling keyless entry and, if not possible, placing the remote control in a Faraday bag, which has a conductive metal lining that blocks radio waves transmitted by keys.
Furthermore, several South African insurers announced earlier this year that installing a tracking device would be mandatory in higher-risk vehicles covered by commercial, agricultural, and personal lines policies in provinces including Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga, and Northwest.
In this context, Tarina Vlok, MD of Elite Risk Acceptances, stated that ‘it is also the vehicle owner’s responsibility, in this climate, to ensure they are proactive in mitigating the increased risk of theft and hijacking.