Carjacking is defined as stealing a car by force, very often while the offender is armed with a gun. Carjacking is not just a problem in large cities like Chicago; it happens in suburbs, small towns like Glencoe and rural areas. Rather than stealing parked cars, many violent criminals find it much easier to steal a car while the owner is inside with the keys in the ignition. Many of these cars are stolen and used to commit other violent crimes, or simply because the thief wants to take the vehicle for a ride. No matter the purpose, these crimes are very dangerous for the victim.
The best way to help prevent a carjacking is always being aware of your surroundings. In addition:
When getting into your car…
- Walk with purpose and stay alert.
- Approach your car with the keys in hand. Look around and inside the car before getting in.
- Be wary of people loitering in the area.
- Trust your instincts; if something makes you feel uneasy, get into the car quickly, lock the doors and drive away.
While on the road…
- Keep your doors locked and windows rolled up (at least part-way), no matter how short the distance you will be walking or how safe the neighborhood.
- Be especially alert when stopped at intersections, gas stations, ATMs and convenience stores.
- When you are coming to a stop, leave enough room to maneuver around other cars, especially if you sense trouble and need to get away. You should be able to see the rear tires of the car ahead of you.
- Drive in the center lane to make it harder for would-be carjackers to approach the car.
- Avoid driving alone, especially at night.
- Do not stop to assist a stranger whose car is broken down. Instead, help by driving to the nearest phone and calling police to help.
- Keep your cell phone in your pocket. If your vehicle is stolen, you will have a way of contacting 911. If your cell phone is left inside the vehicle, you will be stranded without a way to call for help.
When getting out of your car…
- 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 sight; lock your car and take the keys.
- Even if you are rushed, look around before you exit your vehicle and stay alert to your surroundings.
If carjacking happens to you...
- If the carjacker threatens you with a gun or other weapon, give up your car. Do not argue. Your life is worth more than your car. Get away from the area as quickly as possible.
- Try to remember what the carjacker looked like: sex, race, age, hair and eye color, special features, clothes. Also remember the description of any vehicles involved – color, make, model, license plate.
- Report the crime immediately to the police.