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Vehicle Theft and Prevention in South Africa

  • Drive Safe-Tips/Guides-Safety

Vehicle theft remains a significant concern in South Africa, with the country experiencing alarmingly high rates of car theft. The most recent crime data from the South African Police  Service (SAPS) reveals a rise in hijacking incidents across all nine provinces, reaching a total of 5,973 in the third quarter of the 2023/2024 period—an increase of 365 reported cases.

A gloved hand picking up a black sports car

What factors contribute to the high rate of car theft?

One of the key factors contributing to car theft in South Africa is the high demand for stolen vehicles and their parts in the illegal market.Most cars are stolen for their parts or to be resold for profit rather than for personal use. Organised crime syndicates often target specific high-end vehicles, disassembling them and selling the components to unsuspecting buyers.This is why the most popular vehicles are the ones most frequently stolen. This lucrative trade fuels the ongoing problem of vehicle theft across the country.

Technology also plays an important role. While car manufacturers are constantly working on new ways to improve a vehicle’s security, car thieves are extremely good at adapting to the changing technologies and will continue to find loopholes to bypass them. 

The following are some key factors that contribute to car theft:

1. Lack of anti-theft system

Cars produced before the mid-90s do not come equipped with the anti-theft systems and hi-tech security features such as engine immobilisers and vehicle tracking devices. On the other hand, electronic security systems are not fail-proof either – in fact far from it.

2. Electronic locking

South African car owners are all too familiar with car-jamming. Car thieves use an electronic device that allows them to jam the signal from your remote control, preventing your car from being locked leaving you none the warrier. This is why we must always manually check that the car is actually locked before walking away.

3. Keyless entry

A keyless ignition system is marvellously convenient, for both you and the thief. With keyless entry there’s no need for you to fumble for a key to open, close, or start the car. A code triggers a response in the car which then unlocks the door. But be warned: This same code can be picked up by a thief using a scanner and booster device, and it has been found that a car can be stolen in as little as 10 – 60 seconds with this method. This system is a huge advantage to car thieves making a vehicle with this technology an easy target.

4. Colour

Popular colours are a point of resale. The more popular a colour is, the more attractive it is for thieves to steal. Popular colours for vehicles are plain white, black, and silver. Flashy stripes and two tones are generally avoided by thieves.

5. Owner negligence

Carelessness makes your car an easy target and brings on temptation. A vast number of cars are stolen due to an owner’s own carelessness. Common errors include:

  • Not checking that the car is actually locked after pressing the remote control
  • Leaving the car running
  • Leaving the car unlocked
  • Leaving the keys in the ignition
  • Not closing the windows fully
  • Parking in a risky location, such as a dark alley or shady parking garage unmonitored by cameras
  • Leaving valuables in plain sight can be a temptation not just to steal the items but the car too

Ways to prevent your car from being stolen

To combat car theft, both law enforcement agencies and vehicle owners must work together to implement robust security measures.

What you can do:

  • Install deterrents such as steering wheel locks and loud alarms to discourage potential thieves.
  • Secure valuables and avoid leaving them in plain sight inside the vehicle. Thieves are often opportunistic and may target vehicles that appear to contain valuable items. Keep personal belongings out of sight or remove them entirely when leaving your car unattended.
  • Immobilisation devices, such as kill switches or smart keys, can help reduce the risk of vehicle theft. These devices prevent the engine from starting without the proper key or code, rendering the vehicle inoperable to potential thieves. However, as mentioned above, remember that thieves can gain access to your code remotely – the same systems that were originally designed to protect vehicles are now being used as a means to steal them.
  • Remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings,and avoid texting or talking on your phone when approaching your parked car.
  • Trust your instincts and report any suspicious activities to the authorities. This can contribute to the overall effort of deterring and apprehending car thieves.
  • Use signal-blocking cases (like a Faraday pouch).
  • When exiting your car, always check the doors of your car manually so that you are sure that the doors have been locked to avoid the chances of key jamming theft.
  • When at home, store your car key as far away from your car as possible to minimise the possibility of amplifying the key fob signal.
  • Regularly update your car’s security software, as most vehicle manufacturers are constantly introducing new tactics to stay one step ahead of thieves.

By implementing a combination of these strategies and fostering a culture of community vigilance, South Africa can make significant strides in reducing the alarmingly high rates of vehicle theft.

Supa Quick is dedicated to safety on the road. Visit your nearest Supa Quick service centre for a free vehicle safety check.

Also read:

Quick Thinking Saves the Day

Anti Hijacking Tips by Phillip Kekana 

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.


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