Protect Yourself From Carjacking!
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SOUTH AFRICA
CARJACKING, also called car hijacking, is a growing problem in cities around the world, from Karachi to Lisbon and from Nairobi to Rio de Janeiro. Between 1993 and 2002, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 38,000 carjackings occurred annually in the United States.
South Africa, with a population one sixth the size of the United States, has an even higher rate of carjackings—more than 14,000 a year. After you have considered some examples, you will understand why many view being carjacked as one of the most feared crimes of all. The following are true experiences of individuals who live in South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg. By reading their experiences, you may be helped to know what to do if you are ever carjacked or, better still, how to minimize the risk of ever becoming a victim.
▪ “My friend Susan and I had been sharing in the evangelizing work together for a year. One Wednesday, before driving to our next Bible study, we stopped for tea under a tree on a residential road. Susan got out of the car to get the basket from the back. Just as she handed me my cup, two men appeared out of nowhere, one holding a gun to Susan’s neck. Shocked, I tried to get out of the car, but the other man pushed me back inside. There we were, two women forced into a car with two men driving us—I really felt that they would most probably rape or kill us.”—Anika, a young wife.
▪ “I was driving my car at 7:00 a.m. on my way to work. I stopped at an intersection that is frequented by unemployed people seeking work. I did not pay any attention until someone pushed a gun into my neck through my open car window and said, ‘Get out, or I’ll shoot.’ That very minute a traffic helicopter appeared overhead. Thinking it was the police, the carjacker pulled the trigger and ran. He shot me in the neck, severing my spinal cord. This left me paralyzed from the neck down. I cannot use my hands and legs, and I have no feeling in them.”—Barry, father of a teenage son.
▪ “My wife, Lindsay, and I were about to go for lunch. I was waiting for her in my car. The car doors were locked, but the windows were slightly open because of the heat. I was looking ahead from the driver’s seat when two men came around the corner very casually. When they were about eight paces from the front of the car, they split up, one going to the left of the car and the other to the right. Suddenly, they were at the car doors pointing guns at me from both sides and shouting orders. After I started the car in obedience to their command, they screamed at me to get out and get in the back seat. The one drove the car while the other forced me to keep my head down. ‘What reason can you give me for not killing you?’ he asked. ‘I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ I replied. He kept talking about killing me, and I kept praying and thinking of my dear wife, wondering how she would react on seeing that her husband and car had disappeared.”—Alan, a traveling overseer and a parent.
These experiences show how quickly and unexpectedly carjackings can happen. They also illustrate common situations exploited by carjackers. In many places, it is no longer safe to wait or relax in a car parked on a residential road. Other dangerous places are intersections and the driveway to your home.
Dealing With the Aftermath
Thankfully, the experience of Susan and Anika had a happy ending. As they were being driven away by the carjackers, the two women began to explain the Bible study work they were doing. This seemed to prick the men’s consciences. “They apologized for what they were doing,” explains Anika, “but said that because of the times we live in, they are forced to steal and carjack to make a living. We explained why God allows poverty and suffering.” The Bible’s message touched the hearts of the two carjackers, and they decided to give back the money and wristwatches they had taken, assuring Susan and Anika that they would cause them no harm. “Then one of them started to give us instructions on how to prevent a future carjacking,” recalls Susan. “They made us promise,” adds Anika, “that we would never again stop next to the road to have tea.” Then, just as the carjackers had told them, they stopped the vehicle, got out, gratefully accepted some Bible literature, and let Susan and Anika drive away safely.
Alan, the traveling overseer, was ordered out of his vehicle when the carjackers arrived at an isolated place. Though he lost valuable possessions, he was grateful that he survived physically unharmed. “I think I came off lightly,” recalls Alan, “because I was cooperative and nonaggressive, and I did not panic. But certainly, I could have been more observant. I have learned from this incident that there is no time to relax one’s guard now that we are living so deep into the last days of Satan’s wicked system.” The next day, Alan and Lindsay went back to the same territory to continue preaching with the congregation they were assigned to serve. Explains Alan: “We prayed, and our eyes were everywhere for the whole day. It was not easy, but Jehovah gave us ‘power beyond what is normal.’”—2 Corinthians 4:1, 7.
The worst-affected victim, Barry, has been confined to a wheelchair for the past 11 years. Commendably, Barry has remained positive and has not allowed the experience to make him bitter. His faith in Jehovah God’s promise of a righteous new world has not wavered. (2 Peter 3:13) Barry continues to attend Christian meetings regularly and uses every opportunity to share his faith with others. He says: “Serving Jehovah has always been a joy. Even though I sit in a wheelchair and can do little for myself, I often reflect on what Jehovah has done for me, and it helps me to endure. Soon this wicked system will come to its end, and how great will be the day when I can walk again!”—Isaiah 35:6; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Measures taken by the authorities in South Africa have led to a reduction in carjackings. Still, they continue to occur and are increasing in other parts of the world. True Christians look to God’s Kingdom as the only government that will bring an end to all such crime and violence.—Psalm 37:9-11; Matthew 6:10.
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TIPS TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF BEING CARJACKED
▪ If you are driving in an area where carjackings have occurred, keep your car doors locked and your windows closed.
▪ When slowing down to stop at an intersection, be alert for suspicious-looking people loitering on either side of the road.
▪ Keeping a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you will allow for easier maneuverability to escape from danger.
▪ If a car bumps into the rear of your car, be cautious about getting out to inspect the damage. It might be a ruse. If an incident like this happens in a high-risk area, it would be safer to drive on to the nearest police station.
▪ Be alert for strangers loitering near the entrance of your home. If you note such a situation, it would be safer to drive on and return home later, or you may decide to drive to the nearest police station.
▪ If you have to wait in a parked car in a high-risk area or in an area where there are few people around, be alert to what is happening in front of you and behind you. If you suspect danger, start the car and drive around the block.
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Barry remains positive despite being confined to a wheelchair