Carjacking remains a serious threat in many developing countries.  For our purposes in this post we will broaden the definition of carjacking and consider not only forcible theft of the vehicle but also armed robbery of the vehicle’s occupants and/or kidnapping.  This may bother some purists as technically carjacking is meant to infer the theft of the vehicle by force however the motivation of the criminals is generally less important than the tactics and methods used.

Blocking vehicle — this is a classic method used in robberies, kidnappings and assassinations worldwide.  When you are driving slowly or are stopped at a predetermined location – usually a chokepoint – a vehicle will pull in front of you preventing your movement or in some cases two vehicles, one to the front and one to the rear will block you in.  While you are unable to escape the perpetrators will either deploy from the vehicle or from hiding places along the road and carry out the crime – whether it is robbery, kidnapping or assassination.  In Nairobi, Kenya there has been a trend of blocking the vehicle from the rear.  Most homes there are surrounded by a wall with an entrance gate for vehicles.  When a driver arrives at their home and waits for their guard or other domestic employee to open the gate for them a blocking vehicle pulls up behind them pinning the victims car between the gate and the blocking vehicle.  The perpetrators then deploy from their vehicle and carry-out the crime.

  • The Bump – the carjackers will bump your vehicle from behind and cause a minor accident.  When you stop to check the damage they will victimize you.
  • Car Trouble – Another vehicle will pull alongside or a pedestrian will come over and indicate you have a flat tire or some other car problem to get you to pull over and get out of the vehicle.
  • Good Samaritan – The criminals will simulate a car accident, pose as distressed motorists or injured victims to entice you to stop and give aid.
  • Overtaking Vehicle Attack – there is no ruse involved here.  This is an overt attack where the assailants will drive up from the rear and force your vehicle to pull over – either by: (1) using their vehicle as a weapon for force you off the road, (2) displaying weapons (3) or in some cases firing on your vehicle.
  • Halted Traffic Attack – another common overt attack.  This is similar to the Blocking Vehicle Attack except natural traffic conditions provide the “blocking vehicles”.  In this case the criminals know the local traffic patterns and select a location where at a specific time of day traffic creates a chokepoint.  The attackers then assault the vehicle while its stuck in traffic.  They will typically attack on foot or frequently on motorcycles.  This is more common when the intent is to rob the vehicle’s occupants as its difficult (but possible) to conduct a kidnapping this way and more difficult to steal the vehicle due to limited egress options.

Countermeasures for carjacking and similar types of vehicle assaults hinge on situational awareness and knowledge of the local threat environment.  Some key considerations:

  • Know the prevalence, trends and methods used in the location where you are living or visiting.
  • Practice good route analysis and planning.  Know where the danger areas and chokepoints are on the routes you take.
  • Be familiar with protective driving techniques and consider getting formal training in security and evasive driving.
  • Keep windows up and doors locked.
  • Heighten your level of alertness when at key danger areas.

Don’t fall for ruses or ploys designed to make you stop your vehicle or get out of your vehicle.  If you see someone in need of assistance use your cell phone to call for help rather than attempting to provide aid yourself.  If involved in a minor accident or hit by another vehicle (as in the “Bump”) drive to a police station or other safe haven.

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