Smash and grab
is a term first coined in South Africa to describe a criminal activity that involves the breaking of a car window and grabbing
(quickly taking) of valuables and running away. This practise occurs when the vehicle is temporarily stationary at a traffic intersection or moving at a slow speed in traffic. The perpertrators are referred to as 'smash and grabbers', and they are mostly unemployed young males. Smash and grabbers usually target items such as mobile phones, hand bags, laptops, sunglasses, cameras, watches and anything of significant value inside a car lying in the open. Smash and grabbers use instruments such as spark plugs, hard bones and many other sharp objects, and wrap their hands in some form of cloth to prevent injury in their operations. They usually operate in pairs, in which one person distracts the motorist and the other breaks and steals. Smash and grabbers are often disguised as informal traders who usually operate at street intersections selling curios, newspapers and some other small tradable items.
Most of the smash and grabbers can be found in the upmarket areas of the City of Johannesburg and are most active in the traffic peak periods. In an attempt to reduce the chances of being smash and grab victims, some car owners have installed some specially designed film coating on their windows to make it difficult for the smash and grabbers to break their windows.
In the UK, smash and grab has traditionally meant smashing a shop window to steal goods, e.g. from a jeweller's shop.