Kidnappings in South Africa Hit Record High as Confidence in Police Sinks to New Low

Kidnappings in South Africa are at an all time high, with the most recent quarterly crime statistics and the latest available annual statistics marking the highest crime count on record.

The latest crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) show that 5,866 kidnappings were reported across the country between April and June 2022, a 14% increase from the 5,146 reported kidnappings during the same period in 2021.

This year-over-year increase in kidnapping reports means that It is estimated that a car is stolen every 22 minutes in South Africa.

This marks the worst first quarter for vehicle thefts in recent years and sets the country up for another record year for kidnappings.

Sum of reported vehicle thefts of each quarter in fiscal year 2021/22 shows that 20,976 cars were stolen between April 2021 and March 2022, the highest in the last decade, equivalent to 57 cars stolen every day, or one car every 25 minutes throughout the year.

kidnappings in south africa hit record high as confidence in police sinks to new low

lose confidence

Dr. Steven Gordon of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), a think tank that analyzes perceptions of South Africa, said that kidnappings and other crimes in the country are at their worst levels.

Gordon said that in addition to high crime statistics, one of the main issues that makes South Africans even more anxious as they go about their day is the fact that if they were kidnapped, justice would not be served.

Of 3,200 interviews conducted throughout the country compiled in the South African Social Attitudes Survey only 27% of those surveyed said they really trust the South African Police Services.
Forty percent said there was no point in handing over suspected criminals because it is perceived that they will not be brought to justice, Gordon said.

At the state level, the perception of how the government is handling crime is low, with only 24% saying they are happy with the way it is being handled.

This lack of trust in the police is reflected in the Stats SA Crime Victims Survey, which shows that a large number of crimes in the country go unreported, including vehicle thefts. The latest survey shows that approximately 134,000 people experienced kidnapping in 2021/2022, up from 64,000 the previous year.

However, only 62.9% of these crimes were reported to the SAPS.

The graph below shows the general decline in trust in the police since 1998:

kidnappings in south africa hit record high as confidence in police sinks to new low

the worst areas

Unsurprisingly, Gauteng has the highest number of vehicle thefts compared to the rest of the provinces, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape. Mpumalanga is the only province where kidnappings actually decreased in the latest statistics.

Taking into account the top 10 police stations that reported the most vehicle thefts in the same period, six are in Gauteng; however, the province is not at the top of the list.

The Western Cape held the top three spots, with Nyanga, Philippi East and Harare Police Stations recording the most reported kidnappings in the country.

On the other hand, the Rabie Ridge Police Station in Gauteng recorded the highest year-over-year increase in reported kidnappings between April and June 2022, showing a 104.8% increase.

kidnappings in south africa hit record high as confidence in police sinks to new low

target vehicles

The most recent data from Fidelity shows that hijackers most often targeted Toyota and Volkswagen vehicles, with specific models including:

  • hilux
  • volkswagen pole
  • Quantum Toyota
  • nissan np200

The data shows that white vehicles were disproportionately attacked (48.9%). This was also the case for silver gray vehicles (18.9%).

Fidelity also noted that white or silver-gray vehicles are the most hijacked in the country.

White is by some margin (nearly half of all vehicles) the most popular vehicle color in South Africa, followed by silver and grey.

However, Fidelity emphasized that while criminals are likely to prefer a neutral color, it is the make and model that they are most interested in.

Security advice

Fidelity has partnered with the National Kidnapping Prevention Academy to offer drivers the following safety tips and advice:

If you suspect you are being followed, turn on your indicator and slow down at least two or three houses before your house. Following you will force the vehicle behind you, and this could cause criminals to lose interest.

  • If you need to pull into your driveway to manually open the door, always leave the key in the ignition and the engine running unless you have a child in the car. Only then should you take the key with you when you open the door. The key is a valuable negotiating tool: they want your car, and you want your son.
  • Always make sure you can see the rear wheels of the car in front of you when stopped in traffic. This gives you enough room to maneuver and escape.
  • If you stay in a secure complex with security guards, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re safe. You can be easily followed to your complex, so always remain vigilant. Research shows that most people relax the closer they get to home, often when they are most vulnerable.

Other tips provided by the group include:

  • Don’t stop in a deserted place or area to talk on the phone or even relieve yourself;
  • Always keep the windows closed;
  • If someone tries to force you out of the way, don’t panic, just honk your horn constantly to get attention;
  • Don’t stop for hitchhikers, even if it’s a female hiker with a crying baby.

Read: The types of cars targeted by criminals in South Africa and crime hotspots

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