It all starts with knowing when, where, and how lawless elements plan to strike.
In October 2015, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that car theft incidents in the Philippines have dropped 70 percent since June last year. The police force attributes the decrease of carnapping cases to Oplan Lambat-Sibat—the PNP’s combined intensified efforts to curb crime in the country through various means.
Still, this is not a signal for car owners to relax. Even a basag-kotse incident or side mirror theft can cause a major headache. But these can easily be avoided by not leaving your valuables inside your car, and parking in secured, well-lit, and CCTV-equipped places.
Carnappers—now that’s a different story. These lawless elements are out to steal all of your hard-earned investment away from you—a major threat especially if your car is not covered by a vehicle insurance policy.
How can you avoid falling victim to their MOs? It all starts with knowing when, where, and how they strike. Below are a few anti-carnapping tips for every car owner in the Philippines as well.
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Test drive and run
In 2012, the leaders of the infamous Dominguez carnapping group were caught after news about the high-profile killings of two car sellers were linked to them. The modus, which is not exclusive to the said criminal group, goes by the criminals heading to car sellers to ask for a test drive. Once they’re out for a spin, the carjackers will forcibly take the vehicle from the sellers using a lethal weapon.
Don’t be a victim: TopGear.com.ph Associate Editor Dinzo Tabamo advises leaving it to seasoned car dealers to handle the sale of your vehicle. They’ve been in the industry long enough to be savvy and wary of such MOs, after all. Should you want to personally handle the sale, Tabamo says you should dictate the terms of the test drive, such as the route and duration, to avoid getting caught in unwanted circumstances. Additionally, you should ask potential buyers for vital information, such as their verified legal name and address, before giving the transaction a go. Looking up their profiles online prior to your meetup should help you gauge their legitimacy too.
Bump and rob
In this blunt but effective scheme that usually happens at night or before dawn, unwary car owners from, say, the airport get tailed by carjackers until they reach an uncrowded area. Plan A: Ram your vehicle from the rear until you stop, alight the car, and fall for their cunning ways. If first attempt fails, they cut to the chase and proceed with plan B: overtake your car, block your way, and forcibly take the wheel from you. One victim of this modus is businessman Jorge Bernas, son-in-law of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Don’t be a victim: Philippine Star columnist Cecile Van Straten recommends the following: avoid booking flights that arrive before dawn; avoid places like C5 and Shaw Boulevard at ungodly hours; and always lock your doors the moment you get in and out of your vehicle.
Owners of rent-a-car businesses beware: In this carjacking scheme, carnappers will pose as clients wanting to rent your vehicle for a long trip. They may seem friendly and trustworthy during the transaction. But during the trip, they will find a way to throw the driver out of the vehicle and run away with their car.
Don’t be a victim: Since perpetrators find their targets online, former PNP Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina warns operators who use online marketplaces to advertise their services. In addition, he also said that people who run rent-a-car operations without license should stop their operations. It’s not only a violation of the Land Transportation and Traffic Code of the Philippines, it also makes taking legal action after the incident tougher.
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Stop and go
Not every carjacker uses brute force and crude tactics. Sometimes, criminal elements also subscribe to careful planning and timed strikes, and oftentimes it’s much more dangerous. In some cases, car thieves carefully study their targets by following their daily routes, taking notes of recurring patterns in their daily activities, and finding out where they are most vulnerable. They then attack when potential victims are off-guard, like when they’re using an ATM or going to a car wash.
Don’t be a victim: Vigilance is the key whenever you step in your vehicle. If you become more aware of your surroundings, you can avoid car thieves on the prowl. Since these people follow their victims to find the perfect opportunity to strike, learn how to change routes every now and then. If you suspect someone is tailing you, make four consistent left or right turns. That way, you form a circle—and if the car is still behind you, your suspicions will have been confirmed. Dial 117 or drive to the nearest police station immediately. –Dino Mari Testa