“In 2020, Chicago carjackings were up a staggering 134%, with 1,416 people being forcibly removed from their vehicle,” the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports. “This trend has continued in 2021, with Chicago seeing a 44% increase, Washington, D.C. up 45%, and New York an 81% increase.”
NICB President & CEO Dave Glawe says “the pandemic created a perfect storm of conditions” for carjackings.
Two 19-year-old men from Washington, DC were sentenced last week for committing a series of armed carjackings across the District of Columbia within a 12-hour period last year. Authorities say they used carjacked vehicles to block in and carjack other vehicles after pointing weapons at drivers. They continued the pattern until they were arrested by law enforcement.
These disturbing incidents are spreading to the suburbs, with law enforcement warning the perpetrators are not restricted by city lines. Experts note cutbacks in law enforcement funding are a contributing factor, since police agencies are not able to do as much proactive patrolling.
“We’ve had a lot of young people, younger people- juveniles involved in these type of incidences, which was very disturbing in its own right, and the youngest we arrested, someone was around 14 years of age,” Montgomery County Maryland Police Chief Marcus Jones said. “A lot of these incidences really are what I call crimes of opportunity that… whether you were pulling up to an ATM or whether you were pulling up at a gas station, if they saw the opportunity to actually take advantage of a victim, they were taking those opportunities.”
And that is in one of the wealthiest counties in the country.
“From January 2019 to December 2020 there was an average of 1.6 carjackings per month. And since December 2020, that average has jumped to 5.6 carjackings per month,” Susan Farag from the Montgomery County (Maryland) Council revealed.
California is also dealing with a car theft surge. The Public Policy Institute of California reports car thefts are up 24% since the COVID-19 pandemic began, after crunching data from Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco.
San Francisco reported 3,375 larcenies in the month of November alone.
The majority of these incidents were directly related to car break-ins, which San Francisco Patrol Special Police Officer Alan Byard identified as one of the top crimes in the city.
“It’s out of control. We have people that are doing this – are breaking into cars in Nob Hill, then they go down to Fisherman’s Wharf, then they come out here. Then they go to another part of the city and the police can’t chase the cars, it’s considered a misdemeanor,” Byard told a local news station.
San Francisco also saw a rise in smash-and-grab crimes, jumping to 876 reported incidents — nearly 30 per day — up from 442 in November 2020.
“I come out here every night and I see new piles of glass,” the officer added.
Experts say you should park in well-lit areas around other people, and when possible drive with someone else in the car – particularly at night – and if you feel uneasy somewhere, follow your instincts and get out of there.
And be alert. “Offenders often prey on those too distracted by their cellphone and surroundings,” Glawe said.
Parking areas near tourist hot spots are also often targeted by potential car burglars.
If you are confronted, it is recommended you give up the car, but try to pay attention to identifying characteristics of your attacker such as age, race, hair color, and clothing.
Fox News’ Lawrence Richard contributed to this story.