Most smash and grab incidents occur during peak traffic – between 06h00 and 08h00 and 16h00 and 20h00. Women are targeted much more frequently than men, usually because they tend to carry handbags and, have more “items of value” in their vehicles. They are also seen as easier victims since they are unlikely to be able to defend themselves or take any defensive actions.
If you are a female motorist you need to be extra vigilant and develop a sound safety routine to ensure you always keep yourself safe and protected. If you’re a foreign student or tourist please read the guide to safety and security in South Africa for foreign students and tourists.
1. Keep valuables, bags and other items in your boot
Keeping your handbag, laptop and wallet in your boot or out of sight may seem like common sense to most South Africans but, you’ll be surprised at just how many people slip up and leave valuables in plain sight. Even when driving with others in your vehicle and you feel that there is safety in numbers – keeping your handbag, wallet, phone or briefcase with you could attract a thief – don’t do it.
If you have children you must enforce a “no device” rule in the car ensuring that MP3 players, tablets and cell phones are locked away in the boot or out of sight. Keeping your wallet or phone under your chair and out of sight is the best way to prevent a smash and grab. Shopping bags, boxes, CD’s and any other items should also be stored in the trunk of the car so as to avoid attracting attention.
2. Smash and grab proofing your windows
This is a non-negotiable safety measure that any driver must invest in and especially female motorists, who are targeted more frequently. There are a variety of different anti smash and grab tint and film products on the market that are reasonably priced and may deter criminals and even give you a bit of time to get away from an attacker. This video demonstrates just how much harder it is to break into a vehicle that has a protective window tint:
Tinting your windows with a regular dark tint could also make it harder for criminals to see into your vehicle and may deter them from targeting you.
3. Keep Windows and Doors Locked
When driving always keep your doors locked and your windows shut or open about 3 to 4 centimeters particularly if you do not have an anti smash and grab tint. This tiny 3 to 4 centimeters gap is not large enough for someone to fit their arm through but will ensure the glass is more flexible and therefore more resistant to a blow.
Most cars have an automatic door lock function which locks all doors when your car exceeds between 10 and 20 kilometers per hour, if this function has been disabled for whatever reason take it in to your dealer or mechanic and have them enable it. You could also find a DIY guide on how to enable the automatic locking function yourself online.
4. Avoid Boxing yourself in
When approaching a traffic light or stop sign always leave enough room ahead of your vehicle for you to maneuver out of the space. This is not only a good tactic to use to prevent a smash and grab but also to prevent a hijacking.
When driving late at night it’s always a good idea to start slowing down your vehicle at some distance before a red robot to allow it to turn green. This means you will reduce, if not completely eliminate, the window of opportunity for an attack to occur.
5. Stay Alert and Vigilant
Many people view a red robot as an opportunity to check their phones, place a call, fiddle with their radio’s and so on but, it is these very activities that attract a criminal and make you an easy target.
It is on approach to a traffic light, particularly during peak traffic, that most smash and grab incidents occur and it is here that you need to train yourself to be hyper vigilant. Use your mirrors to stay aware of what is happening around your vehicle. Since it is the passenger side window that is most commonly targeted checking your side mirror is critical.
6. Stay in your Vehicle and Beware of Vendors, Beggars and People Standing at Intersections
It is common for a vendor to distract a driver while his partner in crime is scoping out the contents of your car and preparing to make his move. Avoid discussions with street vendors and people handing out pamphlets – even though they may not be intentionally distracting you they will give criminals an opportunity to target you.
You must never get out of your car when there is an obstacle in the road or stop to help anyone flagging you down or someone appearing to have car trouble. It is very commendable to assist someone who is in need however, many times car breakdowns are used as a ploy to get good people to drop their guard and walk into an ambush.
In addition, if you are driving alone, especially during the night, and your car is “bumped” it may save your life to choose to keep driving and go to the nearest police station with the license plate number and make and model of car in hand. If you are being followed or harassed while on the road it is best to call for help using a cell phone without distracting yourself from the situation and road ahead.
7. Keep your Car Clean
Having a messy interior strewn with various items is a big no-no. That plastic bag containing some flip-flops and a few old CD’s could look like something of value and could lead to an expensive bill to repair your broken window.
That case or box of paperwork you’ve left in the back for the past two days could be confused for a laptop or something that it’s not. If you have children who tend to leave things behind in the car you must get into the habit of packing items away or throwing things away before and after each car trip.
Older children should be taught never to leave items behind and not to use their phones or tablets in the car. Chargers, GPS’s and even sunglasses and eye-wear cases should be kept out of sight.
8. Park in Well-Lit and Populated Areas
Many people don’t realise that smash and grabs as well as robberies also happen in parking lots – especially at night and in parking lots where there are no security guards or barriers. If you can avoid driving at night, driving alone or parking your car in an unsafe area where no security is present always take the option.
If you’re parking your car at night always park as close to an entrance as possible as well as in a well lit area. As soon as you have parked the car you must get out – do not linger or talk on the phone as this attracts criminals and puts you at risk. When walking towards your car always have your car keys in your hand and drive away as quickly as possible.