Messages for U.S. Citizens
How to Avoid Auto Theft
February 10, 2012
This message is to alert U.S. citizens to the increasing potential for car theft in South Africa. South African Police Service (SAPS), Sandton Station, recently reported that a syndicate of car thieves may be focusing on foreign plated vehicles. Car theft in general remains a significant concern in South Africa; the Gauteng province alone accounts for the vast majority of them – 32,278 thefts were reported in the province last year. Even though your car may not have foreign plates, it can still be an attractive target for criminals.
Remote Jamming Device
An additional trend is the use of a remote blocking mechanism that jams the signal when a motorist attempts to lock his or her car with the key fob. The motorist walks away assuming the car is locked. In fact, a thief nearby armed with a blocking device such as a garage door opener, has intercepted the fob and prevented the doors from locking. The use of such devices appears to be a prevailing trend in all police districts. In most of these instances, items were stolen from inside the car, although cars have also been stolen as a result of this tactic.
U.S. citizens are advised to follow the following precautions to avoid falling victim to vehicle theft:
- If you have to park on a street, avoid dark or isolated areas.
- In mall parking garages, park near the entrance, areas with plenty of light, and/or areas where other cars are parked.
- Never leave your car unlocked. After locking the car, pull on the handle to confirm it is locked.
- Never leave your car running unattended.
- Never leave your keys in the car ignition. Don’t leave spare keys hidden in your vehicle.
- Always roll your windows up and lock the car, even if you are parked in a secure area.
- Never leave valuables out in plain view, even if your car doors are locked. Preferably, leave nothing of value in your car, even in the glove compartment or center console.
- Don’t leave anything in your car that looks like it could be hiding something of value. For example, don’t leave newspapers or clothing in the car that could appear to be covering something of value.
- Keep only copies of important documents in your vehicle, such as vehicle registration or proof of ownership. Keep originals at home in a safe location.
- Invest in a mechanical device that locks the steering to prevent the wheel from turning.
- Install locking lug nuts to prevent your tires from being stolen.
- If you have an externally mounted spare tire, secure it with a cable lock.
- Always leave just your ignition key with the attendant if you valet park or drop your car at a repair shop.
- Copy your license plate number and VIN numbers on a card and keep them with your driver's license. If you vehicle is stolen, the police will need this information promptly.
- ALWAYS physically check that your car is locked before you walk away.
- If you are confronted by an armed individual: Immediately comply and avoid making sudden movements. Any hesitation on your part could be perceived as a threat which may result in violence.
In the event that you are a victim of crime and your vehicle is broken into or stolen, contact local police immediately.
All U.S. citizens in South Africa are urged to register either online at https://travel.state.gov or by phone or in person directly with the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria or the Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban. Registering gives U.S. citizens access to updated information on travel and security within South Africa and makes it easier for the Embassy to contact citizens in case of emergency. Please note the following contact information:
U.S. Embassy to the Republic of South Africa
877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia,
Tel: 012-431-4000 (outside South Africa: +27-12-431-4000)
After-hours emergencies: 012-431-4000
U.S. Consulate General, Johannesburg
(Covering Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and Free State provinces)
1 Sandton Drive (cnr. of Rivonia)
Tel: 011-290-3000 (outside South Africa: +27-11-290-3000)
After-hours emergencies: 079-111-1684 (outside South Africa: +27-79-111-1684)
U.S. Consulate General, Cape Town
(Covering Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape provinces)
2 Reddam Avenue
Westlake, Cape Town
Tel: 021-702-7300 (outside South Africa: +27 702-7300
After-hours emergencies: 021-702-7300 (outside South Africa: +27-21-702-7300)
U.S. Consulate General, Durban
(Covering KwaZulu-Natal Province)
Old Mutual Building, 31st floor 303
Dr. Pixley Kaseme Street
Tel: 031-305-7600 (+27-31-305-7600)
After hours emergencies: 079-111-1445 (outside South Africa: +27-79-111-1445)