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Wednesday, 21 January 2015 15:30

Don't Become a Victim of Opportunistic Crime

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A recent video depicting a smash and grab on Witkoppen Road in Fourways, Gauteng is doing the rounds on social media, begging the question of how we can protect ourselves from falling victim to the spate of opportunistic crime that seems to be an everyday event in South Africa.

“Many of us travel with items such as cameras, iPods, laptops, tablets, smart phones, designer handbags, sunglasses and so on, in our vehicles.  Often victims are left with far more than just a broken window and stolen goods, but a car that is scratched or even dented,” says Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa.  “The cost of replacing these items could potentially be exorbitant, but what is of greater concern is the loss of items that simply cannot be replaced such as a school bag with learning material collected over a year, or sensitive documents that are saved on a laptop,” says Mandy.

The increased value of designer goods and tech gadgets is a key reason to review the ‘All Risks’ section of your insurance policy.  “Many people insure portable items such as smartphones, laptops, tablets and the like under the household contents section of their insurance policy.  However, once these items are removed from your home for whatever reason, they cease to be covered unless you have specified them under the ‘All Risks’ section of your policy,” advises Mandy.

All Risks cover is an aspect of everyday insurance covers that’s frequently overlooked and often the items we are referring to are high value items.  “Remember that household contents cover means just that – the contents of your home that stay within your home. All risk cover is different, even though it often applies to the same item. Also, don’t forget that most polices offer an Unspecified All Risks section for smaller items, such as the contents of a handbag.  Talk to your insurance broker about updating your policy to ensure you’re covered for all those valuables that may travel with you, out of your home,” advises Mandy

While it is pertinent to confirm what exactly you are covered for in the event of a smash and grab, there are some important precautions that you can take to avoid becoming a victim of this opportunistic and frightening crime:

  • Keep all valuables out of sight, preferably locked in the boot of your car.
  • Be aware of suspicious behaviour at intersections or if you are stuck in a traffic jam near a bridge or embankment.  Turn the music down and pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Keep your doors locked at all times.
  • If you are driving an older model car, ensure that your boot is locked as many criminals try their luck with unlocked boots while moving through traffic.
  • Consider fitting your vehicle with smash and grab protection for your car windows.
  • If you don’t have smash and grab tinting on your windows, open your windows slightly, which will make the glass more pliable and resistant to shattering.
  • Always leave a gap between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, in case you need to make a quick getaway.
  • If you are unfortunate enough to become a victim of a smash and grab, remember that your safety comes first.  Do not attempt to pursue or apprehend the criminal as they may be armed or have accomplices close by – the tablet or phone simply is not worth risking your life.

“If you should fall victim to a smash and grab, report the incident to the police immediately, and get in contact with your insurance company to have the damage to your vehicle repaired as soon as possible,” advises Mandy.  “For many it is a traumatic experience to fall victim to a smash and grab, so do not hesitate to seek counselling to cope with the post traumatic stress,” concludes Mandy.

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