Earlier this month, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in California announced the arrest of 10 suspects for a series of carjackings after a multi-month investigation. On the same day, the Chicago Police Department publicized the arrest of five people in connection with a string of carjackings also dating back months. These are just two examples of a disturbing trend tracked by police departments all over the country.
CPD logged more than 1,400 reports of carjackings in 2020, which, per NBC Chicago, is more than double the previous year’s total. Also, if the attacks continue at the current pace, 150-plus in January, officials expect the annual total to reach 1,800.
“There’s at least five carjackings every day,” said U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) in a virtual townhall meeting, reported the local CBS affiliate.
The City of Brotherly Love also registered a jump in carjackings last year and into this year. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, it handled 404 cases in 2020, more than each 2019 and 2018, and already received reports of 59 instances in January. The Maryland/Washington D.C. region has experienced greater carjackings, too — a 143% increase in Washington D.C. per police data, reported WTOP.
Another troubling scenario is that many police departments suspect teenagers committing these crimes.
“We’re seeing younger suspects, some suspects not even of a driving age, and we’re seeing a lot more violence,” Maryland’s Montgomery County Police Sergeant Rebecca Innocenti told WTOP. “And when these suspects are being arrested, they are being found to be in possession of loaded handguns.”
“It is very, very difficult for victims of carjackings to identify people right now due to everybody’s wearing a mask due to COVID,” noted Eric Carter, a CPD first deputy superintendent, who participated in the townhall meeting.
Indeed, authorities believe the pandemic, including closed schools and lack of afterschool programs, have contributed to the uptick.
“Carjackings are a crime of opportunity. We can speculate and say it’s because of the pandemic, high unemployment, social unrest; however, many people experience hard times that are not turning to violence,” countered Officer Tanya Little, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.
To stall the carjacking trend, several agencies have formed regional task forces that are working with federal law enforcement and U.S. Attorney’s Offices to share information and resources.