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Vehicle tracking and recovery company Tracker said there has been a spike in vehicle-related crime, even as South Africa remains under lockdown.

This is a sharp turnaround from the significant drop in vehicle theft and hijackings seen after South Africa went into lockdown at the end of March.

“Tracker data, recorded from the company’s 1.1 million installed vehicle base, reveals a 90% reduction in the number of vehicle recovery activities nationally during the first week of the lockdown, as compared to the average weekly vehicle recovery activities pre-lockdown,” the company said in a statement.

“This is in line with a preliminary police report that noted a decline in trio crimes, namely car and truck hijackings, business robberies, and house robberies, down to 2 098 in the first week of the national lockdown from 8 853 during the same period in 2019.”

However, vehicle-related crimes are now rebounding quickly. During the lockdown extension, the number of vehicle recovery activities increased nearly three-fold compared to the first week of lockdown, Tracker said.

The first week of level-4 restrictions has seen vehicle recovery activities more than double compared to the lockdown extension figures, representing a six-fold increase from the first week of lockdown to figures that are now only 35% lower than pre-lockdown averages.

“Vehicle crime activities are set to rise even further, back to the same levels or even higher as South Africans return to work and criminals resume their operations,” it said.

Increase in movement

During the first three weeks of lockdown, hijackings attributed a higher percentage of the Tracker vehicle recovery activities compared to theft. The pre-Covid-19 Tracker average for hijackings and theft was a 50/50 split. The initial lockdown period saw an average 63/37 split in the favour of hijackings. This returned to a more even split during the extended lockdown period where Tracker noticed an increase in vehicle movement with more citizens on the road as regulations were eased.

“The slant toward hijackings during lockdown is most likely an opportunistic tactic with criminals preying on vehicles out in the open, while most other vehicles would have been securely locked away.”

Other crime trends include a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly food items and fast-moving consumable goods, Tracker said. Clients are also being robbed of their valuables and in some instances large amounts of cash.

“The decrease in vehicle crime activities during lockdown can be attributed to fewer vehicles on the road and a higher presence of law enforcement,” said Ron Knott-Craig, executive for operational services at Tracker South Africa. “However, we are already seeing an escalation in crime activities as vehicle movement increases and we expect to get back to pre-Covid-19 vehicle crime levels, possibly as early as this week. Like the rest of the country, criminals are resuming their activities under eased restrictions. Under last week’s level-4 restrictions, we recovered a vehicle in partnership with law enforcement, which was being moved across a transnational border.”  — © 2020 NewsCentral Media

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