Hi-jacking – The higher the status, the higher the risk?

With the festive season upon us, it is important to consider that criminals are becoming more discerning and ever more selective with their targets, opting to “hit” high net worth areas, victims or venues, where the takings would likely be greatest and targets easiest.

This is according to Jared Higgins – CEO of the Arcfyre Group, a leading protective and risk consulting firm – who comments on the report of an attempted high-jacking at the Palazzo Hotel at Montecasino in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, 3 December 2016.

Higgins highlights that the attack is indicative of the increase in crime during the festive period and is not limited to residential areas.

“The fact that Saturday’s incident happened in broad daylight, where there was an apparent visible security presence, just shows that criminals are taking the time to surveil and assess security measures and response times. With this information, criminals are able to strategically plan their attacks and maximise their chance of a successful robbery and getaway,” he says.

The South African Police Services have noted that around 40 cars are hi-jacked every day in South Africa and statistics show a clear annual increase in hi-jacking by 14.3% from 2015 to 2016.

Higgins adds that it is vital for high net worth individuals to exercise caution, not only when entering and exiting their properties, but also when visiting shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment venues or even just checking in at the office.

“The significant increase in hi-jackings has come into the spotlight and it can potentially be one of the most dangerous crimes against person and property. It’s much easier and quicker to remove a vulnerable, frightened person from a vehicle at gunpoint than try to break into – and get away – in a parked car, especially with all the anti-theft systems and immobilisers available.”

“Plus, there is the added benefit of being able to get away with the valuables the victims have with them,” he explains.

Higgins says that, while adrenalin may kick in and some people may instinctively fight back to protect their loved ones, resistance should be avoided in this situation and while it is easier said than done, it is important to try stay calm and not ‘spook’ the assailant.

Knowing and understanding the risks is the first step to avoiding, reducing and controlling the risk. There is merit to equipping yourself with the preventative measures that could ultimately result in your survival. Higgins suggests that there are benefits to attending anti-hijack training, through accredited providers who can skilfully educate you on how to handle a compromising situation.

For Higgins, the impact of hi-jackings on the country’s economy is something that tends to be downplayed.

He says, “Not only does the cost of a hi-jacking have a financial – and sometimes physical and emotional – impact on an individual. Countries associated with high levels of contact or violent crime risk sending out the message that the country is a risky place to conduct business, which impacts the economy negatively particularly for the risk averse organizations.

“All in all, hi-jackings cost individuals, families and the economy dearly. Every effort must be made to ensure personal awareness, maintain vigilance and not take unnecessary risks all year long and especially over the festive season,” he concludes.