Saturday, July 4, 2009

Carjacking





Photo: Hazel Mote




There was a high profile violent carjacking locally lately. The carjackers led the police on wild chase, with one being killed in the crash and the other escaping on foot. It seems that there are almost daily reports of cases across the nation of carjackings.

Carjacking is really nothing new. Since the automobile came into existence, there were people who forcibly took the vehicle away from its driver. I watched the new Dillinger movie yesterday and there was a scene of Baby Face Nelson taking a car away from a FBI agent. You can imagine, it didn’t go well for the agent. What we call carjacking became noticeable in the 1980s after the media published stories of bizarre situations and the violence associated with the crime. There were cases of infants in the carjacked vehicle or the driver was abducted and either raped and or killed. The media coined the phrase "carjacking" and the crime of auto theft was elevated to something almost, I hate to say more hip. With this publicity, other criminals "copied" the crime of carjacking. Another reason carjacking has become more widespread, is that it is harder to steal a parked car. With auto alarms, wheel locking systems such as “club” type devices, and engine starter disabler, it has become far easier to wait until someone opens the car up and take it from them.

The Scout

As in most other crimes, there are two parts to the event. First the criminal is scouting for a victim. He is going to look for an easy target. The criminal is going to look for a lone victim, the car will probably be in a parking lot with a lot of coming and goings so there are plenty of victims to choose from, the lot will have an exit on a busy street. Being near a freeway ramp is also a good location. Sometimes they will stake out an intersection with a stop light as to go for the car when it is at the red light.

How to avoid being chosen as a victim

Wear a seat belt – Besides being good safety practice that will save your life in an accident, a seat belt makes it hard to pull you out of the car. For a carjacking to go smoothly, they want to get you out and them in as quickly as possible. A carjacker will go for someone not wearing a belt over someone with a belt because it is less hassle.

Immediately Lock Your Doors When You Get In Your Car – Once again, their aim is to get you out and them in as quickly as possible. If your door is locked this will maybe cause them to go onto someone else.

Look around before You Put the Key into the Lock – Always have a sense of presence around you, especially in the before mentioned high risk areas. Don't park in isolated or visually obstructed areas near walls or heavy foliage. Make sure you can see around you when you park the car. If it is dark or will be dark when you return, make sure it is well lighted. If someone tries to approach, change direction or run to a busy store. As you enter the car, you are most vulnerable and that is when they will make their move. Watch out for young males loitering in the area (handing out flyers, etc). If there are people hanging around the area, go back to where you came from and ask for an escort.

Get In and Out of the Car Quickly - Make it your habit to always start your car and drive away immediately. Don't be a target by turning your back while loading packages into the car. Don’t rearrange the packages in car. Put them in and go. Children tend to take awhile to get into the car. You should teach and practice with them, getting into the car quickly.

Drive with a Sense of Presence - In the city, always drive with your car doors locked and windows rolled up. Do not open the door or roll down the window to talk to anyone. There is nothing important that someone coming up on the street is going to tell you. If it seems to be an honest emergency, only roll down the window two inches. When stopping at a light or a stop sign, leave yourself maneuver room. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to see the back tires of the car in front of you. This will give you enough room to pull away. You might need to go over the curb, but given the choice of a violent carjacking and driving over some lawns you should choose the lawns.

The Attack

If you are unfortunately are chosen by a criminal as a victim and he attacks you, you need to remember that this is not usually a professional, high brow criminal. These are violent predators that will do what it takes to get what they want. Your car is not your life and you should make every effort to get away. Let them have the car.

How to Minimize the Attack

Throw Your Car Keys – Make them choose between you and the car. Most of the time, they are after the car and will take it and go. If they are after you, at least this gives you the knowledge of their true motives and can shape your defense from that point on. It is best not to throw the keys at the attacker. First, it gives them the keys relatively easily. Secondly, you could anger them and even if they were originally only after the car, they could become violent towards you.


Beware of a Bump in Traffic - If you are bumped in traffic, by young males, be suspicious of the accident. If there is an accident, wave to follow, drive to a gas station or busy place before getting out.

If your car and belongs are taken – Immediately cancel your credit cards. Do not go home alone. Have people (more than one) accompany you home. Change the locks before doing anything else. Sign up for an Identify Theft watch service. Most of the criminals who steal cars are tied into identity theft rings and your belongings will go instantly into the hopper.


If it starts to go bad, by this I mean if they look like they are taking you, you first need to try to get away. Don’t threaten or attack them. They typically do not work alone and will in most cases be able to overpower you. Never agree to be kidnapped. Drop the cars keys and run and yell, “Call 911, I’ve been carjacked.” If you are taken and are forced to drive, consider crashing your car near a busy intersection to attract attention. Try to get away at every opportunity. Let bystanders know what is happening so they can come to your aid and call the police. . Once you get away, yell “Call 911, I’ve been carjacked.”

Hopefully, this has made you more aware and you will see a potential scene before it becomes one. The important piece to take way is to be aware of your surroundings and go with your gut if it feels wrong.

As a final item, carjackings do not always end badly. Below is a clip of an attempted carjacking where the victim was able to get away and summon help. In this case, it did not go well for the carjackers.





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