The mayor of Philadelphia, along with law enforcement officials, are warning residents about a steep rise in carjackings in the city.
When asked if people should feel safe in the city during the recent spike of carjackings, Mayor Jim Kenney responded negatively.
“I think people should be concerned about their safety, I do. I think there are too many guns on the street. I wouldn’t hide in the basement, but I would be concerned about my surroundings,” Kenney advised.
His statement comes after the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) released video of a gunman tying a FedEx driver in the back of his truck before driving off with the vehicle. The suspect ended up crashing the vehicle, stealing the packages and fleeing.
Police are still working to identify the criminal.
Residents in the city are remaining vigilant.
“I try to park near where I’m going. I try not to walk alone too far,” a woman said.
Another man said he wouldn’t walk on the streets at midnight.
In addition to a steep rise in gun crime, officials say carjackings are rising at a record pace.
According to police, there have been 140 carjackings in the city thus far in 2022 — double the amount in 2021 from the same time period, and seven times the number of carjackings at the beginning of 2020. Police statistics recorded a whopping 840 carjackings in total last year, more than the total from the three previous years combined.
The culprits are often armed teens. A high-profile case this year involved U.S. Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, whose SUV was stolen in broad daylight near FDR Park. The crime resulted in the arrest of several teenagers.
“This is like the new way of stealing a car, and it’s become very dangerous,” said Chief Inspector Frank Vanore.
Officials say that carjackers steal cars for multiple reasons: either to use the car in another crime like a drive-by shooting, or to steal its parts, or just for a joy ride. Many of the stolen cars are ultimately recovered after being ditched by the thieves.
Vanore said that in the past, thieves would target parked or unattended cars, but now they are emboldened and confronting drivers directly to steal their keys.
So far, law enforcement is struggling to bring carjackers to justice.
According to police data and court records, a mere 14 of 120 carjackings in January led to criminal charges.
“We know very little about the who and why of most carjackings in Philly since so few result in arrest,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
The PPD has advised residents on social media to avoid idling in their cars, to always monitor their surroundings, and to avoid certain dangerous areas in the city.
“There is no single issue that is more important to me, or the members of the PPD, than fighting violent crime. One of the more disturbing trends that we have seen is the continued increase in the number of carjackings,” PPD Officer Danielle Outlaw wrote on Twitter, along with an infographic with advice on how to avoid becoming a carjacking victim.
District Attorney Larry Krasner believes that carjackings are also due to an increase in illegal guns on the streets.
“This is another aspect of gun violence. It’s truly terrible; it’s traumatic. Even where there’s no injury, it’s a traumatic experience, so they should be concerned about it,” Krasner said.