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Car jamming surges as festive season approaches

Netstar data shows uptick in remote jamming of vehicle immobilisers in run-up to Black Friday and peak shopping period.

Data from vehicle-recovery and fleet-intelligence organisation Netstar – a subsidiary of Altron – shows a sharp rise in incidents of car-jamming, as the country enters the peak shopping period over the festive season.

Car-jamming, or remote-jamming, occurs when thieves use a device to jam the signal from a car immobiliser, so that the car fails to lock. The criminals then steal the vehicle and/or any valuables inside.

This often happens outside shopping centres, airports, entertainment areas, petrol stations or other public areas.

The device used to jam the remote signals is often a customised version of a 400MHz gate or garage remote control. While car-jamming is relatively common, perpetrators are rarely caught.

Netstar data shows a downward trend for car-jamming incidents over the course of the  year, but there has been a steep increase over the past week, in the run-up to Black Friday and the subsequent peak festive shopping season.

“The pandemic lockdown saw far less travel by South African motorists, and therefore fewer car-jamming incidents,” says Netstar Chief Technology Officer Clifford de Wit. “However, as we’ve returned to a Level 1 lockdown, and perhaps due to more shopping towards the end of the year, we have seen a rise in car-jamming.”

Netstar figures show that after a gradual decline throughout the year, since the middle of November, car-jamming events have surged, with an increase of 66,6%.

Anonymised car-jamming data is obtained from the alerts generated by the vehicles of Netstar customers fitted with Netstar JammingResist© technology.

De Wit recommends that SA motorists take the following precautions this holiday season to reduce their chances of falling victim to car-jamming:

  • Listen for the sound your car makes when it locks. Wait and watch the car lights flash to indicate it is locked.
  • Physically check that your vehicle is locked, using the door handle. Don’t simply press your vehicle remote and walk away.
  • Park as close to the entrance of shopping centres as possible. There are usually crowds in this area, and security cameras.
  • If you have difficulty locking your car, move your car to a safer spot, or leave.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. If you see any suspicious individuals around the parking area, notify security.

“Remote jamming stops the vehicle receiving signals from your remote,” explains de Wit. “It is like a noise in a room – anyone can talk, but the noise prevents people hearing.”

He advises South African motorists to consider installing jamming-resistance devices on their vehicles. “There is technology that can pro-actively prevent crime and enhance safety and peace of mind for motorists,” he says.

“Tracking and jamming-prevention technology can detect and resist signals from potential jamming devices near where your vehicle is parked,” says de Wit. “With JammingResist© devices, if remote-jamming signals are detected, Netstar notifies you via SMS, so you can ensure that your vehicle is locked, and be on the lookout for potential danger.”

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