Could your family be hijacked?
Children in the car are no deterrent for carjackers. How cautious should you be?
South African parents were confronted with the ugly reality of our “crime culture” recently when a family of five was held at gunpoint by wanna-be car thieves.

A few months before that, a 13-month-old girl was still in her car seat when the carjackers sped off with the car. She was reunited with her parents four hours later, unharmed.

Official SAPS records show that more than 14 000 cases of hijackings were reported in 2008. Arrive Alive estimates that the number is actually much higher and can easily be even double that. But how many of these carjackings involved children? Nobody knows for sure. Melinda Brussow of the National Hijack Prevention Agency says that only the carjacking is recorded, and not who was in the vehicle at the time.

According to a spokesperson for the SAPS, there are no statistics as to how many children are abducted or injured during a carjacking, but she suspects that it must be ‘a lot’. It seems like this information is just not important enough to document. The only way to establish a realistic figure is to go through every case file for attempted and successful hijackings, in every police station in the country. Clearly an impossible task, and presuming that the relevant information is documented in the case file anyway.

According to Barbara Holtmann from Arrive Alive, the main objective in a carjacking is to steal a car and property – not to cause bodily harm. Carjackings are apparently a crime of opportunity and rarely carefully planned or executed . In most cases, the perpetrators are thieves and robbers, and not murderers. But this is small consolation for someone who lost a loved one during a carjacking. Even more revealing is the claim that only 5% of attempted or successful carjackings ends in serious injury or death. Barbara says that if things go smoothly, the risk of injury to you or your children is a lot less than it seems.

We are tempted to think that if we behave one way rather than another, it will keep us and our families safe. Unfortunately that is not always the case. The complications during a carjacking are about the behaviour of the criminals, and rarely because of something you did.

That being said, it is important to note that there are exceptions. It known that you are more likely to be shot if you pull out a gun, and more likely to be injured if you put up a fight. Melinda Brussow of the NHPA says that it is best to comply with the carjackers demands. This is not the time to fight back – nobody is faster than a bullet. We can do all that we can to prevent being carjacked, but when it happens to you, you have to surrender. In general terms, the calmer and more cooperative you are, the better for all.

Melinda says that you must remember that carjackers do not want your baby or child to be in the vehicle. Abducting a child draws too much attention. Every policeman, radio station and helicopter in the vicinity will be alerted to look out for them. In most cases where children were abducted, it was because the hijackers were interrupted or someone was approaching them and they had to get away fast. The good news is that usually they drop off the child unharmed shortly after the incident.

How to act in a hijacking

Have you prepared your children on what to do in a hijacking or other crime situations?

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