The US Department of Justice (DOJ) defines carjacking as the attempted or completed robbery of a motor vehicle by a stranger that includes the use or threat of use of force. According to a DOJ report released in March 1999, between 1992 and 1996 there were an average of 49,000 carjackings each year, up from earlier estimates of about 35,000 each year during the period 1987 to 1992. Earlier reports put carjacking at about 2 percent of all motor vehicle thefts.
The latest report shows that carjackings grew from 3 percent of all motor vehicle thefts in 1992 to 3.5 percent in 1996. From 1992 to 1996, in about half of all carjackings the motor vehicle was stolen. In about 90 percent of completed carjackings, weapons were used and in about 70 percent of those carjackings the weapon was a firearm. However, most carjackings did not result in injuries to the victim--only 23 percent of completed carjackings and 10 percent of attempts resulted in injuries.
The great majority (92 percent) of all carjacking incidents involved a lone victim; men were more likely to be the victim of carjackings; and urban residents were more likely than suburban or rural residents to be carjacked. Thirty-five percent of completed carjackings were reported to insurers. The DOJ says that most of the carjacking victims said they either had no theft coverage or did not report the theft to their insurers.
Further, completed carjackings were less likely than thefts to be reported to insurance companies. A study by the Illinois State Police covering 1994 to 1996 found that most of the 45 carjackings it studied were gang-related. Sixty percent of those involved had known gang affiliations. Their primary motivation appeared to be a need for short-term transportation. The Anti-Car Theft Act, designed to reduce the number of car thefts nationwide and make armed auto theft ("carjacking") a federal crime, became law in 1992. In 1994, the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act made carjacking where death results a federal crime punishable by death.
Car-jacking is nothing more than stealing a car by threat or use of force. Like any other crook, the car-jacker is looking for the easiest target. Some of the things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim are:
- When approaching your car, be aware of your surroundings. If suspicious persons are near your car, walk past and go back to a safe area.
- Have your keys ready when you get in your car, to avoid fumbling in a strange parking lot.
- If the car is unexpectedly unlocked or open, do not get in. Call for help.
- Once in your car, lock all doors and close all windows.
- If approached by a stranger after you are in your car, do not open a door or window, drive away, and sound your horn if you feel threatened.
- While driving, avoid areas that concern you. Keep your car in good repair and full of gas.
- Allow room to maneuver between you and the vehicle in front of you. Do not open doors or windows for strangers.
- If someone attempts to stop you, or causes an accident where you do not believe it is safe to stop, drive to an area you feel safe, such as an occupied gas station, police station, etc.
If an unmarked police car attempts to stop you and you are not sure it is a police officer, obey all traffic signals, signal to the officer your intentions and drive to an area you believe it is safe to stop, such as an open convenience store, police station, etc.
CAR JACKING - stealing a car by force - has captured headlines across the country. Statistically, your chances of being a CAR JACKING victim are very slim, and preventative actions can reduce the risk even more.
If the car jacker has a weapon, give up your car with no questions asked. Your life is worth more than your car.
Keep your car doors locked and windows closed at all times while you are in your vehicle.
Be especially alert at gas stations, shopping malls, convenience and grocery stores, and intersections - all are likely spots for car jackers.
Park in well-lighted areas with good visibility, close to walkways, stores and people.
Approach you car with the key in your hand. Look around your car before getting in, especially underneath the car. And make sure there is no one hiding inside of the car before entering.
If your car is stolen, report it to the police immediately. The sooner the police are notified, the better your chances of recovering your vehicle.
What you can do to protect yourself! - Arlington County Va Police Dept
Before You Go
- Select a safe route. Well lit and well traveled streets are generally safest.
- Have an alternate route in mind in case of problems.
- Keep your vehicle in good repair and be aware of your fuel level, always keep your tank at least half full.
- Travel with a friend when possible - a person alone is more vulnerable.
- Keep doors locked and windows up.
- Keep valuables out of view.
- Keep your car key separate from your house keys.
- Don't leave vehicle registration, mail, bills or other items with your home address in the vehicle.
- Be aware of activity around you, especially people on foot near your vehicle.
- Be suspicious of people approaching your vehicle for change, directions, handing out flyers, etc.
- If someone asks for assistance (stalled vehicle, etc.) do not get out of your vehicle. Go to a safe location and call the police.
- Travel in the lane closest to the center of the road whenever legally possible.
- Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and other vehicles to allow yourself a way out.
- Park in well lit and well traveled areas.
- Look around for suspicious persons and possible hiding places (darkened Doorways, etc.) before turning off your engine.
- If in doubt, Do Not get out of your vehicle. Drive away and park someplace else. Report any suspicious activity to police immediately.
- Lock your car and take your keys with you - even for brief errands.
- Be especially cautious when using automated teller machines.
Returning To Your Vehicle
- Be aware of persons loitering near your vehicle.
- Be aware of any tampering which may have been done to your parked vehicle.
- If you think your vehicle has been tampered with, Do Not get in it. Notify police immediately.
If You Become A Victim...
We strongly caution that resisting or attempting to flee may place you in great danger. Your personal safety - not the potential loss of property - must always remain the primary concern! In many cases the robber has displayed or threatened the use of a firearm and therefore may have the ability to inflict serious injury or death. Submission and surrender of the property is usually the most reasonable course of action.
About Car Jacking
Car Jacking is the taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another by means of force or fear. Security conscious drivers are less likely to be a victim of car jacking than those who are careless. The crimes can take place at any time but more often take place at night, and are committed by young males. Top spots for car jacking include intersections and the parking lots at malls, apartments, businesses and schools. No matter where you are, you are always at risk.
The following precautions will greatly reduce your chances of being victimized:
- Reduce your chances of being carjacked by walking with purpose, and stay alert.
- Approach your car with the key in hand. Look around and inside the car before getting in.
- Park in well-lighted areas, near sidewalks or walkways. 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.
When on the Road
- Keep doors locked and windows rolled up, no matter how short the distance or how safe the area.
- Look around, especially at places where you slow down or stop, such as garages and parking lots, intersections, self-serve gas stations and car washes, highway entry and exit ramps, and ATMs.
- When coming to a stop, leave enough room to maneuver around other cars, especially if you sense trouble and need to get away.
- Avoid driving alone, if possible. Travel with someone, especially at night.
- Don't stop to assist a stranger whose car has broken down. Help instead by driving to the nearest phone and calling police to help.
- Always keep your car well maintained, and make sure you have plenty of gas.
If It Happens To You
- If the carjacker threatens you with a gun or other weapon, give up your car. Don't argue. Your life is worth more than a car.
- Get away as quickly as possible.
- Contact the police immediately.
Remember - Don't argue. Your life is worth more than a car.