A GANG of five criminals driving a Toyota Avensis is going around shopping malls and centres in Harare stealing from parked cars.
The gang made up of three man and two women is reportedly using electrical gate motor remotes to jam vehicle alarm security systems before opening parked cars once the driver has left the parking lot and grabbing any valuables.
According to a security alert being circulated in Harare residents’ WhatsApp groups, the criminals stole two bags with undisclosed valuables at Westgate Shopping Mall on Saturday.
A report was made at Mabelreign Police Station.
The security alert is accompanied by pictures of the Toyota Avensis and the gang members taken from CCTV footage.
The alert alleges that efforts to get footage of the Toyota Avensis driving in and out of the Westgate Shopping Mall parking lot have been unsuccessful because the security at the mall is reluctant to release the footage.
This has raised suspicions that the security at Westgate Shopping Mall might be conniving with the five criminals.
Security guards are said to be will always there in the car park when the thefts are taking place, further buttressing suspicions of connivance between the criminals and security staff at the shopping mall.
The criminals reportedly jam car alarm systems using an electric gate motor remote. Unsuspecting drivers park their cars and when they arm their alarm systems, they never notice anything amiss until they return to their cars to find their valuables stolen.
In 2019, an article published in the British Sunday Times said this method was called signal jamming. According to the Sunday Times article, a device transmitting on the same radio frequency as remote key fobs is used to jam the signal that locks the car.
“The gadget might be in the pocket of a crook in a car park, or left in shrubbery near a driveway being targeted. When owners press the lock button on their key fob, the command is prevented from reaching their vehicle and it remains unlocked. Thieves are left with an open door,” reported the Sunday Times.
The Sunday times also identified code grabbing as a looming threat when it comes to car security.
“Thieves armed with advanced gadgets are thought to lie in wait for desirable cars. When the owner locks the doors, the signal is captured by the device, which then calculates the unlock code. Though there is little evidence this method is currently being used, some experts are convinced it is a looming threat. Others say it is impossible,” the paper reported.
In 2020 a South African vehicle tracking and recovery company, Netstar, warned motorists against thieves who steal from cars parked at shopping malls using the remote jamming method whereby the jamming device is set to the same frequency as your car remote.
When you leave your car, the criminals press the button, effectively disabling your remote from locking your doors and boot.
The ever-present warning signs of remote jamming at shopping malls, petrol stations and roadside stalls is a constant reminder of the very real threat of crime in South Africa. Perpetrators of car break-ins are rarely caught, making it one of the most common crimes in the country.
The security alert about the Westgate gang warned motorists to physically check if their doors are locked even after arming using a remote.