n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - An application of the rational choice perspective on vehicle hijacking

Volume 14, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Although vehicle hijacking is a world-wide phenomenon, it has increased to such an extent in South Africa that it is currently regarded as one of the countries with the highest hijacking figures in the world (Burke & O'Rear 1993:24; Hijackings reach horrifying level 1994:11; Live to drive 1996:16). It is estimated that in South Africa a motor vehicle is hijacked every 40 to 54 minutes. This implies that more than 25 motor vehicle drivers are victims of hijackings daily (Myerson 1995:15; Nevin 1995:48). In South Africa it has been identified as a priority crime due to the serious implications it holds for the individual in terms of the loss of property, physical injury and emotional trauma. The negative public response to motor vehicle hijacking, as well as international condemnation of it, has contributed to the South African Police Services SAPS) considering hijacking as one of the most serious crimes in South Africa. Because vehicle hijacking is the product of various factors (such as the socio-economic conditions in South Africa, the availability of firearms, crime syndicates operating in the country, good outlets, inadequate border control, corruption and the ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system to control this crime), no single theory can be used to explain why individuals fall prey to this crime. Although various criminological theories (e.g. Merton's anomie theory, Cohen's, as well as Wolfgang and Ferracuti's subculture theories, Cloward and Ohlin's differential opportunity theory, Sutherland's differential association theory, Burgess and Akers's differential reinforcement theory, Hirschi's social control theory, and the conflict theories) can be used to explain why a specific individual robs a motor vehicle, this article focuses on the rational choice perspective. Research done by Davis (1999:298) indicated that hijackers select specific targets and that they assess the difficulty, risk, opportunities and rewards associated with this crime. This research, as well as empirical information that confirms that robbers generally think carefully about the circumstances and prospects of robbery (Cook 1976; Feeney 1986; Feeney & Weir 1974; Normandeau 1986; Timrots & Rand 1987; Walsh 1986), serve as sufficient grounds for the application of the rational choice perspective on vehicle hijacking. Before explaining the theory, the historical background that led to the development of the theory is reviewed.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error