TIPS ON PREVENTING CARJACKING
Compiled by Manuel Valadez Jr.
Carjacking is a violent crime that has been on a dramatic increase. Most local and state criminal codes don’t define “carjacking.” It’s reported as either auto theft or armed robbery. Though carjackings can occur anytime, a large number appear to take place during the late night hours. Carjacking isn’t just a problem in large cities – it happens in suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. Carjackers look for the opportunity. They don’t choose victims by sex, race, or age.
It is a crime in which a car is taken from a person by force–at gunpoint, knifepoint, or other forcible means.
Carjacking may occur for many reasons:
- suspect fleeing a crime scene,
- to steel the vehicle
- to sell for money to feed a drug habit,
- for gang initiation,
- just because,
- to simply joyride
Carjacking is extremely dangerous for the victim as carjackers have been known to seriously injure or even kill their victims.
No one knows for certain why there has been an increase in carjacking, but some explanations include:
- New technology has made it difficult to steal an unoccupied car.
- It’s a crime of opportunity – a thief searching for the most vulnerable prey. Hot days-open windows. Parking lot carjacking.
- Sometimes it’s the first step in another crime such as smash and grab. These vehicles are usually SUV’s or trucks–something large, heavy, and with power.
- Carjacking may be a rite of passage, a status symbol, or just a thrill.
- Cars, especially luxury ones, provide quick cash for drug users and other criminals.
What do carjackers look for?
- Intersections where cars have to stop
- Garages and parking lots
- Gas stations and car washes.
- ATMs (automated teller machines).
- Residential driveways and streets as people get into and out of cars.
- Anyplace else that drivers slow down or stop.
The “Bump and Rob” method. It works something like this.
You are driving and you are rear ended. You get out of your car to check the damage. In a rush you leave the keys in your car. Another person gets into your vehicle and drives off. Your car and anyone else, usually kind in baby seats, in the vehicle is gone in a second.
Be very vigilant in these situations. If you get out of your car take your keys and lock the car. If the situation makes you uneasy, jot down the car’s tag number and description; signal the other car to follow you. Go to a busy, well-lighted area. If possible drive to the nearest police station.
Reducing your risk of being a victim
- Walk with purpose and stay alert when going to your vehicle. Scan the sides and back and be aware of your surroundings.
- Approach your car with the key in hand.
- Look around and inside the car before getting in.
- Be wary of people asking for directions or handing out fliers.
- Trust your instincts – if something makes you feel uneasy, get into the car quickly, lock the doors, and drive away.
- Keep your doors locked and windows rolled up (at least part-way, if it’s hot and you don’t have air conditioning), no matter how short the distance or how safe the neighborhood.
- When you’re coming to a stop, leave enough room to maneuver around other cars, especially if you sense trouble and need to get away. Sufficient space is when you can see the bottom of the rear tire of the car in front of you.
- Drive in the center lane to make it harder for would-be carjackers to approach the car.
- Avoid driving alone.
- Go with someone whenever possible, especially at night.
- Don’t stop to assist a stranger whose car is broken down. Help instead by driving and calling the police to help assist the stranded driver.
- Park in well-lighted areas, near sidewalks or walkways. The busier the are the better.
- Avoid parking near dumpsters, woods, large vans or trucks, or anything else that limits your visibility.
- Never leave valuables in plain view, even if the car is locked. Put them in the trunk or out of sight. Remember that you are vulnerable when opening the truck. Make sure that no stranger is close to you when you do this. Retrieving your purse from the back seat places you in a vulnerable position since you cannot see who might be behind you.
- Try to park in a garage with an attendant. Leave only the ignition key, with no identification.
- Even if you’re rushed, look around before you get out and stay alert to the surroundings.
If It Happens to You
- If the carjacker threatens you with a weapon, give up your car.
- Your life is worth more than a car.
- Don’t argue, don’t begs them not to take your car, don’t cuss at them.
- Get away from the carjack scene as quickly as possible.
- Try to remember what the carjacker looked like – sex, race, age, hair and eye color, special features, clothes. Observe to see the carjacker’s direction of travel.
- Report the crime immediately to the police. You should be able to provide the make, model, color, distinguishing characteristics about your vehicle, and license plate number.