Tips to avoid smash-and-grab

Opportunistic criminals rely on the element of surprise to strike at unsuspecting motorists.

This action, often referred to as a ‘smash-and-grab’, happens across all cities and usually ends up turning what should be a pleasant drive into a nightmare.

“The best way to prevent a ‘smash-and-grab’ from happening is to be alert,” warns Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.

She referred to an incident recently in Cape Town where a video was shared on social media, showing a motorist being robbed while stuck in traffic at a slow-moving crossing. In Gauteng, warnings are regularly issued about hotspot areas where smash-and-grabs are common occurrences.

“Potential robbers are constantly on the lookout visible valuables and distracted drivers,” Hattingh explained.

“Thugs are looking for a quick steal – something that they can easily and quickly grab before running off, while the driver is too shocked and surprised to respond. Laptops and handbags on front seats are especially popular items reported stolen in smash-and-grab incident across the country.”

What can you do to protect yourself?

Hatting said the the two most important things one can do, is to pay attention to your surroundings and to never leave valuable items in clear sight to any passing pedestrian.

“Criminals do not need a lot of time to strike and the ordeal is over before you even realise you became a ‘smash-and-grab’ victim.”

Hatting advised motorist to take caution and she offered some valuable tips:

* leave valuable items in the boot or store it safely under your seats;

* if you find yourself in an area where traffic is moving very slowly (for example, because of congestion or due to a defective traffic light) make sure you keep your eyes open for any pedestrian movement around your vehicle;

* avoid distractions. Your focus should be on the safe operation of your vehicle and nothing else. The phone call and the cigarette can wait;

* lock your doors and keep the windows closed;

* avoid sitting in your car for a prolonged period of time (along the side of the road or perhaps in a parking garage) where you potentially become an easy target, while concentrating on a phone call or something else that distracts your attention from your surroundings;

* leave a gap between you and the car in front of you to give you room to escape (i.e. drive laway from any incident), if anything should happen;

* consider installing special window safety film. It is usually tinted so that no one can see into the car, while also preventing the windows from shattering.

“The key point to remember in all of this, is the need for vigilance. You can already make a massive difference in avoiding a smash-and-grab by simply paying attention to what is happening around you.

“If you see anything suspicious, make sure to report it to the nearest police station or to law enforcement agency immediately so that fellow motorists can also be protected,” Hattingh concluded.

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