It’s an unfortunate reality that while the festive season in South Africa is generally a time for relaxation and family bonding, this period of the year also witnesses a dramatic increase in the level of crime. Andre Ittmann, the CEO of Cartrack, a global leader in vehicle tracking, fleet management and insurance telematics, notes that vehicle safety is a particular area of concern for families heading for a much-needed annual break.
“A lack of predictable structure plays a significant role in increasing vehicular crimes during the holiday season. This trend can be attributed to holidaymakers going out more, resulting in them parking their cars in unsecured areas. This is markedly different to a typical work week, where most vehicles are safely parked at office blocks and homes.”
According to Ittmann, the key to managing holiday risk is to be aware of the most important scenarios, and to take simple, relevant safety precautions.
Tip #1 – Think about where you park
Criminals tend to target vehicles situated in easily accessible spaces, which is often the case during the holiday season, with many vehicles exposed at places such as beaches, sports stadiums and shopping malls. The best way to avoid these scenarios is to avoid parking on the fringes and to rather park more centrally.
“The ideal parking place needs plenty of light and must be in full public view, as criminals tend to target vehicles situated in easily accessible spaces. It’s worth spending a few extra minutes searching for a good parking place rather than leaving your car in a vulnerable spot, ” says Ittmann.
Tip #2 – Don’t forget the manual check
Holiday parking lots are an environment where many people move at high speed, desperate to escape the crowds. These situations creates a perfect environment for a criminal practice known as signal jamming, whereby drivers walk away from their cars while pressing their remote to lock it. However, unbeknownst to them criminals have interrupted the signal, and the vehicle is therefore unlocked. Ittmann says that signal jamming can be easily avoided.
“Signal jamming is an occurrence that is easy to prevent. After pressing the remote to lock your car, simply check that the door really is locked by flipping the handle. Only once you have done this should you proceed to walk away from your vehicle.“
Tip #3 – Keep your valuables with you
Ittmann notes that there is a high chance of possessions being stolen from a vehicle if valuables such as cell phones, tablets and wallets are left inside them in plain sight.
“Smash and grab criminals are especially adept at spotting easily accessible items at traffic lights, and leaving valuables in parked cars is an open invitation for theft. The more valuables you leave scattered around the vehicle, the higher the risk of crime. As such, it is important that you don’t leave any valuables accessible and visible in a vehicle, and always keep them either on your person, or hidden from view and inaccessible at all times.”
Tip #4 – Keep your spare keys somewhere else
While keeping a spare key in your car can be handy, it also presents a problem in that it makes the job of a criminal that much easier.
“Professional thieves are quite adept at spotting spare keys, and they are also aware of all the places in the vehicle that you try to hide them. As such, it is not a wise idea to keep spare keys in your vehicle, and it is more prudent to store this key away from the car,” says Ittmann.
Tip #5 – Always be aware of your surroundings
The festive season is a time when people are more relaxed, and as such, they tend to let their guard down, notes Ittmann.
“Criminals are quick to pick up on the fact that people are not aware of their surroundings and view these people as potential easy targets.
It’s therefore critical that you have your wits about you even when you’re in holiday mode; and take the appropriate steps to ensure your safety and that of your vehicle. Make sure that you aren’t being followed, look around for suspicious activity, avoid high crime areas and be attentive to any threat.
“By simply doing the small things, you will prevent becoming another victim,” he concludes.