It seemed like a normal winter afternoon in southwest Minneapolis for Julie Wicklund and her 14-year-old daughter.
“My situation happened on a Sunday afternoon. My daughter and I were having lunch when an individual came into our home, holding a gun and demanding the keys to our car,” Wicklund said.
The suspect escaped without her car, but another victim Melanie McCall wasn’t so lucky.
“I was sitting in the car that showed up in my garage and had a gun pointed at me open the door and said give us all the keys now or I’ll kill you,” McCall said. “They were quiet. And they were fast. And they knew exactly what they were doing.”
McCall’s incident happened on December 11, and she just recently got her two cars back.
Minneapolis police say there were a total of 655 carjackings in 2021, which is an increase of 63 percent. St. Paul police recorded 101 carjackings, a 38% increase from 2020.
Other cities across the country are feeling the crime increase too. Philadelphia police saw 750 carjackings in 2021, a 34% rise from 2020. New York police report 510 carjackings, marking a nearly 56% increase.
Some investigators reported more kids committing the crimes. Minneapolis police say that juveniles made up 56% of all identified suspects and arrestees for carjacking offenses last year. St. Paul police also said that most of the carjackings last year were committed by juveniles. In Philadelphia, of the 160 people charged with carjacking in 2021, 72 were juveniles. That’s 45%. This is based on the date of arrest therefore the incident may have occurred before 2021. Data is subject to change pending updates and further investigations.
Local and national non-profits work to deter teens from turning to violence, but they typically lack funding and resources to have a wider reach.
J.C. Dampier is the director of the Minneapolis chapter of the Man Up Club, which mentors at-risk African American men between ages 12 to 24.
“Kids are joyriding in cars taking cars and those things start to happen because there is no one holding them accountable,” Dampier said. “I wish they could all have a place that they could have someone they can go and vent to be able to open up to like a therapist or counselor, someone that could hold them accountable or someone that they could talk with.”
The group meets every week for dinner and conversation, but Dampier wishes it could be more. Finding mentors is difficult because it’s a time commitment.
Sandy Hook Promise CEO and co-founder Mark Barden said they teach students and teachers across the country to look for warning signs of violence. Barden’s 7-year-old son, Daniel, was shot to death in the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook. Now, Barden works to prevent gun violence by seeking out warning signs of potentially violent people.
More than 14 million youth and adults have participated in the “Know the Signs” programs in more than 15,000 schools and youth organizations nationwide. The program gives them a system to anonymously report potentially violent people.
“They understand that they have been given this, this tool with which they can help themselves and they can help their peers by telling a trusted adult that I’m concerned about somebody,” Barden said. “We know that they work and for us, it’s just the challenge is getting that to more students.”
While programs like this take time, crime victims like Wicklund would like elected officials to find a solution to crime now.
“The victims that are being left in the wake are going to suffer these consequences. Traumatically emotionally, mentally, for a very long time,” Wicklund said.