Tips to avoid hijackings at complex and estate gates

Hijacking at access gates to complexes and estates in South Africa is on the increase, according to data from the National Hijacking Prevention Academy (NHPA), with insurer Dialdirect reporting an alarming 20% increase over recent months.  Andy Lawler, MD of Sentinel Risk Management, warns against complacency when driving through access-controlled gates and offers tips to avoid becoming a victim. (See contact details to attend his anti-hijacking course below.)

Let us face the fact right at the outset:  no estate can ensure your safety 100%.  Estates can only put measures in place to make it more difficult for criminals to get to residents and their belongings.  While estate security providers place great emphasis on installing increasingly complex systems to counter the rising sophistication of organised criminals,  there is a danger that we can become complacent with regard to simple, opportunistic crime.

In trying to prevent hijacking situations at estate gates we need to look at two separate aspects: Firstly, the physical anatomy of the security gate itself, and secondly, the mindset of the person driving the vehicle into or out of the estate.

Security tips at access gates

In terms of the physical anatomy of the estate gate, one needs to have a look at other structures that the criminal could use to hide behind, that provide quick and easy access to the driver when attempting to carry out a hijack.  It is for this reason that unnecessary structures put in place for aesthetic reasons, such as sections of freestanding wall used for the estate name or even shrubs and large bushes, need to be avoided at all costs.

Another aspect in terms of the physical anatomy of the gate is that one should ideally be able to see through the gate, before the gate opens, in order to see what is on the other side and what possible dangers are lurking.

If the estate has a guard room separating the entry and exit driveway of the estate, that guard room should ideally have a glass front through which observant guards can see and report loitering persons and vehicles.  Any guard worth his or her salt, upon seeing a loitering vehicle outside the estate, should ideally warn residents about to leave the estate to rather wait a little while until the vehicle has left the premises. Guards may also approach these vehicles and nine times out of ten, the vehicle will move away.

If the estate has cameras on the outside of the estate over the gates, it is important that these cameras do not have any blind spots.  Furthermore they must be mounted in such a way that they are not affected by the sun, either in the morning or in the afternoon.  Observant criminals will often take advantage of blind spots and direct sunlight onto a lens in order to commit their crimes undetected. Thus, should a camera need to look directly into any bright light, the camera should have wide dynamic range that cuts out glare.

Driver mindset when driving in or out a gate

With regard to the mindset of the person driving the vehicle into or out of the estate, each resident should understand that his or her discipline or complacency affects each and every one of their neighbours within the estate and, thus, residents should be encouraged to be extra-disciplined and observant when using the estate gate.

If the estate relies on each resident having a remote control for the gate, in lieu of guards and a human based access control system, then the driver needs to realise that the gate has to close behind them before they drive off to prevent criminals from activating the infrared gate safety beams and opening the gate, allowing their accomplices to enter.

Before opening the gate with a remote control, the resident needs to observe the area outside the gate before opening the gate to drive out.

Should the gate be made in such a way as to prevent the driver from seeing the outside, then there should be some other way to see the outside before opening the gate, i.e. a camera system accessible on your smartphone. Thus one can observe the outside of the gate prior to opening it.

Should you approach your gate when coming home and you notice somebody loitering around your gate, or possibly what appears to be somebody hiding behind a structure near your gate, or even a suspicious looking vehicle parked near your gate, do not turn into your estate driveway.  Rather, drive past and observe from a distance.  Should you see that suspicious vehicle drive off, or the suspicious looking person move away, then by all means approach your driveway and enter while keeping an eye to the left and right of you for further suspicious persons.

Always remember, your car is replaceable; but your life and the lives of your loved ones in the car with you, are not.  Thus, should you be caught unawares by an armed attacker, do not make eye contact, do not make any sudden moves, keep as calm as possible, obey their commands, and ask them politely if you could take your children out of the back seat.

Should you wish to do and Anti-Hijacking course, please phone Andy Lawler on 082 953 1594 or email for our next course date.

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