Satellites to fight South African `carjackers'

Johannesburg (Reuter) - A hi-tech satellite tracking system used to recover stolen cars is being introduced in the country that needs it most - violent crime-ridden South Africa, police said yesterday.

"This is the clearest indication by the state of its commitment to eradicate hijacking and motor theft using the latest and most effective technology available," the security minister Sydney Mufamadi said.

A hidden device on the car can be located by satellite once the owner has reported the theft to the police. The use of the new technology in the US and elsewhere has radically improved the recovery rate of stolen vehicles.

South African motorists live in fear of the car hijacker, who can strike at city-centre traffic lights, out in the country or at the electric gates to their often burgled homes.

Usually, armed gangs force the driver to hand over the still-running car. For good measure, they often shoot the victim.

Previous innovations to make cars more hijack-proof, such as immobilisers that make the engine cut out after a few minutes if the car has not been started with the proper procedure, have only made the ordeal of hijacking more horrific.

The criminals now often take the driver with them until they are sure they know all about the car's security systems.