Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hijacking 101

A good start, for a Saturday. We’re fresh, we’ve found our way there -- why, it’s a “family outing”! Who knew? What fun!

“Take a tea or coffee, sit down, make yourselves comfortable. And thank you for coming today.”

I really couldn’t believe it. Here, Saturday at 9 am. A crowd of what, 50, 60 people? All here to listen to a program on preventing carjackings. When they could have been out at breakfast, or at their kid’s football match, or sleeping in. So.... it must be a real problem, hey? A REAL problem. Aiiiii.

Our instructor introduced himself. Richard.

What a dynamite guy. Just a pistol! (So to speak.) He plunged right in, talking a mile a minute.

“What happens when a one year old baby gets shot in a hijacking? What’s that all about? Someone gets shot at 14 times, gets hit four times? It seems senseless, and it is. Most of these crimes are committed by 13-22 year olds. And you know what they’re thinking. Nothing.”

Thirteen year olds. And you think you’re peeved because your 13 year old son handed in his history project a day late? Things could be worse!

The first carjacking in South Africa, the first recorded one, was in 1976, on the 17th of April.... in Bloemfontein.

At this point, the audience completely cracked up! “Bloem! Maaaa Gawd! NOTHING happens in Bloemfontein!” Hysterical laughter. We three Americans were a bit lost, but figured it was probably like Peoria, Illinois (though speaking of which, Tarquin was the victim of an attempted robbery at gunpoint, on Main Street, in Peoria, Illinois... the most ordinary town in the world. Fortunately, the robbers spooked themselves as Tarq was fumbling for his wallet. “Sh-t, man, we’re on Main Street! Main Street! We can’t do this on Main! F---! F---!!!” And they floored it and sped off in their white car to rob someone else on... 7th Street, maybe? Tarq was stunned. “Mom, I was all ready to hand over my wallet and everything... it was so weird!”)

But the name, “carjacking” didn’t enter the official lingo until 1997. That was the first year the South African government started keeping statistics on carjackings. So in terms of analysis, the stats are only 10 years old.

In 2004, 10,981 cars were stolen in Gauteng (the province surrounding and including Jo’burg). Of those 10,981, 5-7% were actually insurance fraud. Someone calls up their insurance company: “Maaaa Gawd, my car was stolen in my front drive just this instant!” And then the person puts in a claim, and buys a boat or something. Nasty business.

But 10,981 cars. That’s out of 6.7 million cars registered in Gauteng. Not so bad. You do the math. Your odds are better than you thought.

Now other provinces, well, the statistics are slightly different. Only 1,021 cars stolen in the Western Cape, but that’s out of a total of 784,000 cars, so the percentages are about the same, really. Odds, percentage-wise, are similar that you’ll be carjacked in the Western Cape. It’s all in how you bend the numbers.
And then, in the North Cape. Well, there were 6 cars hijacked in the Northern Cape last year. So your odds look good over there. But, “there are only 7 cars registered there”, so.... percentages are TERRIBLE!!!! Again, mad laughter from the audience. Nothing, but NOTHING happens in the Northern Cape. Who knew?

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