Even though the 2011 crime statistics from the South African Police Service reveal a 10% decline in motor vehicle theft over the past year, the fact remains that a staggering 64 504 cars were stolen and 10 627 were hijacked last year, which equates to approximately 176 cars being stolen and 29 cars being hijacked every day in South Africa. As a result, new preventative measures such as vehicle tracking or microdot technology are increasingly becoming a necessity, rather than a luxury.
Utilising new technological advancements becomes even more crucial when one considers that car thieves have also become increasingly smarter and faster in the methods they use to steal a car. In recent media interviews with car thieves, who chose to remain anonymous, they advised that it takes between one to five minutes to steal a car; and if they cannot steal it, they will hijack it.
One of the latest car theft trends involves thieves bringing along their own computer box, which they install on scene within a minute. These boxes enable the criminal to start the car without setting off the immobiliser. Other methods include using a device, such as an Allen key, which is then customised by having one end sharpened to a point, flattened and used to either unlock the car or start it.
Perhaps most disturbing to your clients would be the fact that these stolen or hijacked vehicles are being bought for anything between R3 000 to R30 000, which in some cases, may be far less than the owner is paying on monthly instalments or even motor insurance premiums.
As you are no doubt aware, even your clients who have not suffered the theft of a vehicle will feel the consequences through increased motor insurance premiums, which is unfair when you consider the fact that the client is not effectively responsible for the theft themselves. With motor theft becoming easier by the day, it is advisable for the motor insurance industry to offer incentives to clients that incorporate preventative measures such as vehicle tracking technology and have their cars marked by Microdots, as well as provide advice to clients on how best to avoid theft or hijacking.
At MUA, clients with certain makes of cars that are known to be more susceptible to theft or hijacking are required to install vehicle tracking technology as part of their cover, while other clients may receive reduced premiums and no excess if the client has a vehicle tracking unit fitted to their vehicle.
Brokers may be able to find out from their insurance partners what some of the most popular brands of cars being stolen or hijacked are, so they can advise their clients accordingly prior to buying a new vehicle. If your clients have a motor vehicle that is known to be a popular choice for car thieves it is a good idea to inform them of this and ensure they have some type of vehicle tracking technology installed.
As many vehicles are stolen for parts, we encourage the use of Microdot technology, which involves the spraying of new vehicles with thousands of 1mm diameter-sized Microdots onto a minimum of 80 different parts of the vehicle. Each Microdot contains a microscopic 17-digit laser-etched VIN and personal identification number (PIN), which allows for the vehicle to be traced back to the registered owner. The Microdots are only visible under a ultra-violet light and visible through a magnified lens. Only one dot is required to trace the owner, whose details are registered on a national database.
Advising your client on how to avoid having their motor vehicle stolen or hijacked not only builds better relations but may help prevent a claim. Inform your client of typical locations for motor vehicle theft or hijacking so they can be on high alert when parking at these locations. Currently, shopping malls are the most popular venue for thieves to steal or hijack vehicles, however events that draw large crowds, such as school sports days or music concerts, have also become venues of choice.
When it comes to parking, tell your clients to always park in well lit areas and as close as possible to the entrance to their destination. If the motor vehicle is parked in line of sight of a CCTV camera, this may also act as a possible deterrent against theft but can also assist in indentifying thieves should the car be stolen. The insured must always be aware of their surroundings and look out for suspicious people sitting in cars or standing nearby observing the area. If anything looks or feels wrong, it is better to leave or seek help immediately.
If the motor insurance industry works together to promote the use of these technologies, whilst also ensuring that clients are well informed of the latest criminal trends, we may be able to act against thieves and reduce the number of cars being stolen or hijacked.