New enforcement actions by the South African Police Service (SAPS) have likely contributed to a drop in cargo truck hijackings in the country, although the total number of hijacking incidents remains at a concerning level. BSI analysis of recently released SAPS crime statistics, which cover the period between April 2015 and March 2016, indicates that the number of hijackings during the period (1,184) dropped seven percent compared to the previous year’s figure (1,279). The geographic distribution of incidents largely followed typical patterns, with Gauteng Province accounting for the most by far (695), followed by Mpumalanga (194), KwaZulu-Natal (71), and Free State (65).
BSI has traditionally observed an inverse relationship between the number of truck hijackings in South Africa and the nation’s GDP growth rate, suggesting that cargo thefts increase in the country when the economy lags. However, the number of hijackings decreased during the last year, while GDP growth also saw a continued slide to about one percent. This marks the first time since 2011 that BSI has recorded a drop in the number of hijackings in a given year while GDP growth has also decreased. This suggests that factors aside from the economy likely impacted the number of hijackings in South Africa last year.
Most notably, the creation of a dedicated anti-truck hijacking task force likely played a role toward curbing the number of hijacking incidents in the country in 2015. SAPS’s national commissioner approved the task force last July following a series of hijackings of trucks carrying cigarettes. The force is active in Gauteng and other high-risk provinces for hijackings, and officials indicate its operations are guided by criminal intelligence collection. The 2015-16 statistics highlight the force’s likely role in addressing the hijacking problem in the case of Gauteng Province, which saw a 14-percent drop in incidents and in Free State, where hijacking numbers dropped 27 percent.
Despite the reduction from the previous year, the cargo truck hijacking figure for 2015 remains at a very concerning level. In 2014, the highest number of hijackings occurred since the 2008-2009 period, which each witnessed over 1,400 incidents. Furthermore, last year’s numbers remain 44 percent higher than the 821 incidents recorded in 2011, the lowest number seen over the past decade. Notably, BSI has continued to record recent incidents involving violent cargo theft tactics against escorted shipments following a series of such cases last year, underlining the serious cargo theft environment in the country despite the overall drop in hijacking numbers.