The growing number of robberies that target delivery courier vans and scooters could harm the reputation and finances of the nascent e-commerce industry.
While the South African shutdown caused online sales to peak in 2020, up 66% from 2018, industry participants have raised concern over the rise in thefts targeting scooters and courier trucks.
Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela, Gauteng police commissioner, updated the public on vehicle and truck hijackings in the province in March last year.
He pointed out that whereas truck hijackings had grown by 31.8%, vehicle hijackings had increased by 5.9%. He observed that in recent weeks, courier van robberies have drawn attention.
According to the E-commerce Forum South Africa (ECFSA), the lockdown caused a larger reliance on online delivery services, with the growing number of attacks on delivery personnel even more in the spotlight for the industry.
Since the Covid pandemic began two years ago, there have been reports of an upsurge in robberies and violent crimes against e-commerce delivery staff, said Lauretta Ngakane, head of communications for the ECFSA.
“We maintain frequent communication with the South African Express Parcel Association, which advocates for training for the delivery employees of its members in the case of attempted hijackings or equipment theft.
“We would like to see comparable counselling programmes for other delivery personnel in addition to making sure that personnel have access to adequate insurance. A crucial component of online commerce is delivery, which needs to be adequately protected,” said Ngkane in a statement.
Recent reports in local neighbourhoods show that residents are experiencing delays at their gate when taking delivery of fast food.
It is alleged that criminals are taking advantage of this window of opportunity to rob the delivery drivers of their vehicles, phones and cash. Residents are also at risk.
As a result, Fidelity ADT has issued a warning to all homeowners, asking them to exercise caution when leaving the security of their homes to accept deliveries of food or other items.
The portable panic button should be carried with you at all times, according to Charnel Hattingh, head of marketing and communication at Fidelity ADT, and should be pressed in case of emergency to summon armed response.
She notes that panic buttons are essential and that people should have quick access to one in case of need. “Panic buttons that are hidden away in a cabinet serve no purpose. We advise that you keep them close at hand, either in a pocket or dangling around your neck for convenient access.”
Additionally, panic buttons need to be frequently inspected to make sure they are in good working order.
“It’s critical to exercise caution when accepting packages. Please be cautious of your surroundings and have only the necessary amount of cash on you if you are anticipating delivery. Keep your cellphone in the house and refrain from wearing expensive jewellery,” she advises.
Hattingh also provides the following safety advice:
- Keep the gate closed, even if you are expecting a delivery.
- Instead of opening your gate to get your items, sign for them through the gate and make sure no one is nearby.
- Installing a second security measure, such as a security gate with an intercom at the front door, is advised. This provides you with a second line of defence and perhaps a few extra minutes to use the panic button if necessary.
- Make sure the area is brightly lit at night for both your safety and the driver’s safety. Bring a torch with you for greater visibility.
- To ensure their safety, make sure your kids are inside when you collect a delivery.
The pandemic has stimulated home deliveries for restaurants and will encourage customers to purchase more products from stores online, according to Ngakane, who also stresses the potential long-term effects.
Theft of delivery vehicles, including motorcycles and courier vans, raises insurance costs and endangers the safety of delivery personnel.
The cost of shipping will go up if hijackings and thefts are allowed to rise unchecked, which will inevitably make e-commerce less appealing to both customers and businesses.
The safety of Uber’s delivery partners is said to be a priority, and the company has taken many steps to assure it, including forming the Uber Incident Response Team, which is skilled at responding to incidents in an emergency, as shown on their official website.