Thursday, November 17, 2005

Baby you can drive my car

So. Why do people decide to hijack a car? Your car?

For financial gain. For personal image. For power.

And the last reason is so much more dangerous, much MUCH more dangerous, than the first two.

Let’s look at some types of hijackings.

First up, the hot hijack. The syndicate (the SA “mob”) and a shady used car dealer are in cahoots. The dealer asks for the model and vehicle -- he already has a buyer in mind -- but the dealer will take whatever he gets from the hijacker, including bullet holes in the driver’s side door, blood on the seats, broken glass and shattered taillights.

Of course, these ... drawbacks.... will influence the selling price of the vehicle. Usually the hijacker gets between 17 and 32 percent of the used car value of the vehicle. For a BMW 330ci the hijacker can get R12000 - R25000 (that’s about £1000 - £2200, or $1800 - $ 3700 ).

So that’s for your bullet riddled car, your very own blood staining the driver’s seat, and you on the pavement, most probably dead. You, YOU! Your heart, your soul, your unique and exquisite mind are worth only R12000.... £1000.... $1800..... That’s it. Or more accurately, you, your heart, your soul, your unique and exquisite mind are worth nothing.

It’s only the car, Jack.

And the car is hot. Very hot. It has to “go away”, get sold, immediately.

Next up, the cold hijack. For this one, the buyer/dealer specifies the year, model, color, interiors. Almost like buying a car the regular way, but..... not quite. The method of choice is to bribe a person, preferably a woman, at the registry department. Give her a big bunch of money to start out, and she goes into her computer database, and changes the registration details on the car. The VIN number or whatever. Now a new registration number/license plate can be issued for this “new” car.

All is going along fine, but then, the next time the hijackers are going to make a payment to this woman, they call her up and note that they know where she lives, where her kids go to school, and maybe, maybe, if you want to see your kids again, you might not “need” so much money next time. A different kind of downward spiral for this amateur criminal. And now she’s stuck. Screwed, really. Too late to change her mind, now. She has to continue altering VIN numbers and assisting organized crime.

The reality of it is, there are 100,000 cars that have “disappeared” in Gauteng. But they’re all still driving around. With new, different VIN numbers in the system. Thanks to the people who slipped that once and gave into temptation. And then did it again and again and again.

Then, thirdly, there are the opportunistic car jackers. The house burglars who take the cars along with the household goods. In this case, the guy has the car, after the house burglary, but doesn’t know what to do with it, because it’s not his usual thing to fence. So he has a tougher time finding a market, and might sell your Mercedes for next to nothing.

But there’s also another kind of motivation. The simple desire for personal gain. A guy steals your car... because he likes your car. This one deals in firearms or drugs. And he’ll only trade for another hot car if people are talking.

He might also steal your car, your E class Mercedes or your 5 class BMW, because both of those models have a low center of gravity and can be used to knock over cash-in-transit vehicles (Brinks trucks, for American readers.) This is the big new popular pastime for criminals. A gang of guys in a Merc or Beemer sideswipes a cash-in-transit vehicle. With the low center of gravity, they can simply tip over the cash-in-transit truck, onto its side, and then they cut off the roof (using the Jaws of Life, or in this case I suppose, the Jaws of Money) when the truck is disabled. These heists are happening all the time, multiple times a week, all over Gauteng.

So what does this mean? It means if you have a Merc or a BMW, you have a desirable car to a hijacker, because your car can be used to create further ill-gotten gains. It’s not just your car’s value, it’s the value-add. The contents of those cash-in-transit vehicles that the gang is going to hit up.

And what’s the problem, though, for the hijacker, with stealing a Merc or a Beemer? Two problems, really. First, the thief has to get the keys. With all the new technology, immobilizers and so on, you can’t hot wire a car anymore, very often.

And so you, the driver/owner, have the keys. In your hand. He needs to get you to give him the keys. This is where things get dangerous.

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