Thieves also head back to work

Johannesburg – Statistics from the vehicle-recovery sector show that crime levels are getting back to normal as the lockdown is relaxed, says Charles Morgan, operations executive at Netstar, a company operating in the vehicle recovery space.

  Morgan said Netstar has first-hand experience of trends around hijackings and car theft in the country. 

  “At the beginning of the lockdown, these crimes dropped to almost zero,” he said.

  Netstar’s data is in line with that from vehicle-tracking company Tracker.

  “Our recovery partners reported that for the first time in decades, entire days would go without a single car being stolen in South Africa. This was largely because there were simply not many cars on the road. We all retreated to our homes, heeding the government call to isolate and limit transmission of Covid-19,” he explained.

  Morgan said the lockdown also meant that during the traditional vehicle theft times, 11:00 till 12:00 and 18:00 till 21:00, there was no business activity.

  Gyms, restaurants, and businesses were closed, and social visits were curtailed, giving criminals no opportunities to steal vehicles.

  He said the lockdown meant suspension of operations for all, including the vehicle-theft syndicates.

  “Now that we’ve all adjusted to the new reality, our records show we are heading back towards business as usual, in the mainstream and the illicit economy,” he said.

   Netstar’s data has shown a slow increase in the numbers of stolen and hijacked vehicles. 

  “This may be because criminals are becoming desperate, or are becoming more brazen, and accustomed to lockdown conditions. It’s also true that all of us have followed a similar trajectory in our daily behaviour. Where initially a trip to the supermarket was a rarity fraught with apprehension, now we are far more confident about leaving the house, armed with our face masks and hand sanitisers,” said Morgan.

  Netstar said heavier road traffic has led to levels of vehicle crime rising to approximately 60% of where they were prior to lockdown.

  “The patterns also indicate that during the lockdown, many vehicles are not being stolen by professional syndicates, but by amateurs, often on impulse.  But as the lockdown has progressed, we have seen the established syndicates getting back into business, becoming more brazen and ambitious. Trends indicate that this would see vehicle crime levels returning to what they were before the lockdown,” said Morgan.

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