GRAAFF-REINET NEWS - In the last few months, there has been an alarming increase in car thefts in and around Graaff-Reinet, with a peak in September of five cases of theft or attempted theft.
In one week alone, two cars were stolen in Cradock Street, and one attempted theft occurred in Spandauville. The following week during the Karoo-lus Festival, two vehicles parked in Stockenstroom Street were stolen.
In the seven months from April to the end of October, 16 cases of theft of a motor vehicle (which includes attempted theft)took place, whereas in the same period last year, only six cases were reported.
These crimes are investigated by a specialised unit from Cradock, the Vehicle Investigation Services.
According to local SAPS member Warrant officer Garies Deysel, a syndicate is at work, and he says the vast majority of these are not random opportunistic crimes.
Matching footprints have been found at different crime scenes, and it is thought that local scouts run intelligence networks about the location of suitable vehicles and the habits of the household.
The two cars taken on the same night in September were recovered, together, at Komga, on their way to the former Transkei. One suspect was arrested after crashing the car he was driving into a pole, but the other ran away. It is thought most stolen cars are taken to the former Ciskei and Transkei areas.
The majority of the vehicles targeted are older cars, pre-2004, with the exception being the Hyundai H100 delivery vehicle. Parts from these vehicles are apparently in great demand, as they fit Quantum buses. Older vehicles are generally favoured by car thieves as their security systems are usually less sophisticated, they are known to be reliable, and parts are often interchangeable.
Models that seem to be particularly attractive to the syndicates are Toyotas (the older Corolla, Tazz and Hilux), Ford Laser Tracer and Ranger LDV, VW Golfs, older model Isuzu one-ton bakkies, and Honda Ballades.
The majority of thefts occur between 23:00 and 02:00, and are nearly always from private premises.
Obviously, the ideal deterrent is for a car to be parked in a locked garage, or at least inside locked gates.
Unfortunately this is not always possible as many properties only have street parking available. In some cases too, especially when people arrive home late after a night out, it is simply less trouble to leave the car outside rather than wrestle with heavy gates.
Other preventative measures suggested by W/O Deysel include installing a tracking device and applying secure glass polyurethane on all windows, measures which are costly but less than the cost of replacing a stolen car.
Other suggestions are the old-fashioned steering lock bars, gear locks and brake locks, all of which can prove to be a deterrent to the opportunistic thief.
An audible alarm is also recommended, as the sudden loud noise will often scare people away. In the same way, a dog can help alert the owners to the presence of people in the yard. Even if it does not prevent the vehicle from being taken, the noise may alert householders and neighbours, and help the police to establish an accurate time of the crime.
"In the end, if a thief really wants to steal a particular car, they will find a way to do so, but it is the responsibility of members of the public to take all reasonable precautions with their vehicles, and at least deter the opportunist," said W/O Deysel.
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