Watch: Criminal activity at petrol stations on the rise

A case of armed robbery has been opened following a robbery at an Engen filling station in Northmead, Benoni, on August 2.

Recently there was an incident at a petrol station in Illovo and another in Roodepoort, and on August 2, a man was robbed at an Engen filling station in Northmead, Benoni.

According to research compiled by the Institute for Security Studies, hijackings in South Africa have increased by 55 per cent in the past four years to at least 40 hijackings daily.

Gauteng is cited as the hot spot for vehicle theft and car hijackings, with almost two out of every three incidents occurring here.

Vishal Premlall, director of SAPRA, the South African Petroleum Retail Association, confirms the worrying trend of petrol stations now increasingly being targeted as hotspots for these hijacking or robberies and warns motorists to stay alert.

Fidelity ADT Community Development Manager, Linda Reeder says it is important motorists plan their routes carefully, so they don’t have to stop in high-risk areas to fill up.

“Ideally choose three preferred suppliers along your daily routes and make sure you change your routes regularly,” she says.

Reeder says it is not advisable to fill up in the early hours or late evenings.

“Most importantly a petrol station is not a place to let your guard down. Stopping to refuel your car is definitely not the time to stop and make calls or check your phone for messages. It is an open invitation that says, ‘I have a cell phone going if anybody is interested’.”

She says you can see from the video footage how dangerous it is to be distracted on your cellphone or to leave your door or window open.

“Windows need to be closed at all times and your boot should also be locked.”

She says unlocked passenger doors are an invitation to steal goods lying loose or to hijack a car.

“A favourite tactic is to be distracted by people coming up to your window and whilst they are speaking to you through the window, another person comes around your car and opens your passenger door.”

Premlall said it is important for motorists to understand that most petrol stations are not equipped to manage this type of risk and certainly all attendants are unarmed.

Social cohesion advocate, Yusuf Abramjee suggested petrol stations have a single entrance for entering and exiting the premises and adds that technology needs to be used to fight crime at fuel stations.

He said allocating each petrol attendant a panic button, to automatically activate the closure of a boom-gate or spikes.

This would close in criminals and prevent them from leaving the premises.

Reeder said when you are sitting at a petrol station ensure you are aware of your surroundings and have a backup plan in your mind in case of an emergency.

“Act in a way that you would if you know you are being watched because you probably are being watched,” she says.

According to the Boksburg North SAPS communication officer, Capt Juanita Coetzer, petrol station owners have to look into their security measures at their premises.

“They must look at the possibility of closing off their premises, with one controlled entrance. Also, putting up more lighting inside the premises and CCTV cameras can be of a big help.”

She added, due to the rise in the hijackings and robberies at these premises, the possibility of placing an armed guard inside the premises can cause criminals to be scared off.

Coetzer urged the community to take special care when filling up their vehicles.

“Do not use your cellphones while filling up; this distracts you from being vigilant of your surroundings.

“Do not get out of your vehicle, leaving your keys in the ignition. Most new vehicles can open the petrol cap without the key, so then motorists are relaxed and leave their key in the ignition.”

Coetzer says to be vigilant when stopping your vehicle anywhere; be aware of your surroundings and rather drive off when something is suspicious.

The same advice comes to play when you are visiting a car wash, says Coetzer.

– Do not leave your keys in the vehicle, or give it to anyone and then leave the premises.

– Do not let your vehicle out of your sight.

“Your vehicle is your responsibility; you have to make sure it is secure.”

 

  AUTHOR
Ischke de Jager
Journalist

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