Durban – While people are reacting strongly to news of a family coming home from holiday only to find strangers living in their home, house-jacking is not a new trend.
Speaking to the owners of the home through a chained front door, the (illegal) occupiers claimed that the window – through which they gained access into the property, should not have been left open.
And because it was, they claimed they now had squatters’ rights to live there.
This as house-jacking syndicates have been targeting homes and businesses.
Local security expert, Mike Bolhuis said once the squatters were in, it was very difficult to get them out.
Speaking to eNCA, he said property hijacking had been going on for quite some time.
"So any vacant property is at risk. In other words, if you go on holiday and you haven't taken the necessary measures, you can come back and find that somebody is in your property, has hijacked it; looted, stolen everything and is operating from there and doing so because first of all the criminals today they just do anything they can and take advantage of because they can, and get away with it," he said.
Bolhuis said often times communities were afraid to get involved and that’s why squatters got away with hijacking buildings.
He explained that while homelessness and poverty played a role in property hijacking, squatters often stole whatever they could find in the house including copper pipes and expensive plants.
"They look for what they can sell and where they can sell it," he said.
Bolhuis said one person in the syndicate acts as a scout who looks out for properties that are vacant or neglected, and can be hijacked.
He said communities needed to stand together, alert neighbours about such acts and look out for each other.