Carjackings are not just for Congresswomen anymore.
In a previous column, I covered the carjacking of Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. But she is not the only victim of late to lose a car at gunpoint. On January 12th, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw addressed the growing crime and the growing public concern.
“One of the more disturbing trends that we have seen in Philadelphia is the startling increase in the number of carjackings – the taking of a vehicle by force or fear – that have been experienced over the past two years,” Outlaw said. “It is clear that carjackings are a crime of opportunity, and it is possible that a change in our daily routines – such as increased use of vehicles for delivery, curbside services, and ridesharing have provided increased opportunity for criminals. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized mask wearing, and this has provided additional opportunity for offenders to avoid catching their victim’s attention, as well as making it more difficult to identify perpetrators.”
Outlaw noted that last year there were 757 reported carjackings in Philadelphia, an increase of 34% over 2020. Out of those 757 reported carjackings, police arrested 150 individuals, clearing 93 investigations through those arrests.
“The PPD has deployed additional resources to investigate these incidents and apprehend offenders. This includes plain-clothed officers deployed to targeted areas and an operational Task Force dedicated to combating carjackings within the city,” Outlaw explained. “In addition, every PPD detective division, as well as our Major Crimes Unit, which investigates crime rings and trends, has assigned detectives to investigate patterns, hotspots, and develop intelligence pertaining to carjackings. Our intelligence bureau is also gathering information from multiple sources, participating in mutual exchanges of information with our law enforcement partners, and identifying locations, trends, and patterns associated with carjackings in the city.”
The Philadelphia Police offered tips on how one can avoid becoming a victim of carjacking.
Getting out of your car on the street, in driveways. parking lots, gas stations and ATMs are carjacking “hot spots.” The police state that a “bump and run” is when a carjacker’s car bumps intentionally into a victim’s car. When the victim gets out to look over any damage, the carjackers show their guns and take the victim’s car. If bumped, stay in the car and lock the windows and doors. Place your flashers on and tell the other driver to follow you to a police station.
Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings. Look around for suspicious persons in cars or hanging around. Park in well-lit areas. Police advise that you should not pull over for stranded motorists. Simply call 911 and pass on the information. Always trust your instincts. If you feel something is not right, drive off quickly, and always have your cell phones on your person.
Security experts offer other tips, such as when you are stopped for a traffic light or other reasons, carefully observe what is happening around your car using your side and rear view mirrors. Always keep your windows up and doors locked. Drive in the center lane to avoid being pushed over to the shoulder. Don’t open your window for someone approaching your car asking for directions or trying to sell you something.
If you are pulled over by someone in an unmarked car who claims to be a police officer, stay in your locked car and call 911 on your cell phone. Tell the person you are calling 911 to confirm they are in fact a police officer. If the person is truly a police officer, he won’t have a problem with your actions, and if he is not a police officer, he will take off to avoid arrest. If you can’t drive away from a bad situation, stay in your locked car and yell and honk your horn repeatedly. Criminals don’t like noise and they tend to run away to avoid attention.
The police say that if a carjacker brandishes a gun, give up the keys to your car. But some people refuse to be a victim and opt to defend themselves with their legally owned and carried handgun, like the retired postal worker who literally dodged a bullet that flew past his head. He shot the 16-year-old carjacker in both legs and the second carjacker fled.
A while back, I interviewed Captain John J. Ryan here on the rise in carjacking. Ryan, the commanding officer of the Major Crime Division, noted that from the arrests the police have made, the carjackers are mostly juveniles, whom he said are on the path to becoming hardened criminals.
If one has any information about carjackings they can call the Philadelphia Police Tip Line at 215-686-8477.
Paul Davis’ Crime Beat column appears here each week. You can contact him via pauldavisoncrime.com.