The nature and extent of vehicle hijacking is increasing world-wide. Vehicle hijacking is also one of the most serious crimes the South African Police Service has to deal with. The climate of violence that currently exists in South Africa and the need for more knowledge concerning priority crimes necessitate research on this topic. Although research that has been undertaken in South Africa to date focuses on the nature and extent of vehicle hijacking as well as the victim’s experience of the event, little empirical information exists regarding the modus operandi of offenders and the victim’s role in the commission of the crime. On account of this it was decided to investigate the planning, operational and escaping phases which reflect the modus operandi of the hijacker. An attempt was also made to determine the extent to which victims are vulnerable to vehicle hijacking and how individuals could contribute to their victimisation. To test the research expectations and hypotheses, 110 victims and 12 vehicle hijackers were involved in the study. A mailed questionnaire was sent to the victims, while interviews were conducted with 12 hijackers in the Pretoria Central Prison. Based upon the analysis and interpretation of the data it was found that most hijackers spend at least some time on the planning of a vehicle hijacking. They also considered both the positive (namely the financial advantage gained from hijacking) and the negative aspects (namely injuries, death, arrest and imprisonment) associated with committing the crime. Analysis of the data shows that vehicle hijacking does not occur involuntarily and that hijackers select specific targets. Although the misconception exists that the vehicle and the motorist are equally important during the selection of the target, the findings show that the vehicle which is on order, serves as the main reason for target selection. The race of the motorist as well as the number of passengers in the vehicle are the only two variables that influence hijackers not to select an identified target. Furthermore, it seems evident that the presence of policy officials is the only environmental factor that will deter a hijacker from committing the crime. The findings also show that hijackers prefer a specific day, time, place and circumstances to hijack a vehicle and that hijacking is a group activity that is executed by two to four males. Verbal threats as well as violence form part of the hijacking. It appears that race and occupation are the only two demographic variables that influence vulnerability. The make and value of the vehicle as well as the number of passengers in the vehicle could increase a victim’s potential risk for victimisation. The findings show that victims cannot be held accountable for a vehicle hijacking. Victims rarely neglect to take the necessary precautions against victimisation, enter potentially dangerous situations and/or drive recklessly. Based upon that findings, certain conclusions with regard to the aims of the study are reached. Based on this, recommendations are made concerning further research as well as suggestions regarding the prevention of vehicle hijacking.
Thesis (DPhil(Criminology))--University of Pretoria, 2005.