CARJACKINGS SKYROCKET IN CHICAGO

If you live in Chicago or the collar counties, you are probably accustomed to the huge number of shootings or homicides that occur in the city. Now another crime, carjacking, has surged to its highest numbers in at least ten years, according to a Chicago Tribune article printed December 29, 2017.

Although the vast number of shootings and homicides tended to be concentrated on the South and West sides, carjacking occurred throughout the city, often in trendy neighborhoods and downtown. Among the 967 victims of carjacking in Chicago in 2017 were ordinary citizens, an off-duty police officer, and a Lyft driver.

What is carjacking? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the theft of an automobile from its driver by force or intimidation.” The word “carjacking” is actually a combination of car + hijack + ing. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was first used in 1991.

Thieves often use force, threatening the drivers with a gun or knife, to rob their victims of their money and their vehicles. Sometimes the thieves then use the vehicles in drive-by shootings, smash-and-grab burglaries, and other crimes. Sometimes they might just go for a joy ride in the car and abandon it on a city street.

What methods do criminals use to steal the cars? One method is called “bump-and-run.” The criminals intentionally drive their car into the rear of the victim’s car. When the driver gets out of his car to survey the damage and exchange insurance information, the criminals threaten the victim with a weapon, jump into the car, and drive away.

Darren Reboletti, a Lyft driver, was dropping off his Lyft passenger around 1:30 A.M. on December 20, 2017 on the South Side of Chicago when he felt another car bump into his brand-new Jeep Cherokee from behind. When he got out to check the damage, someone from the other car jumped into his Jeep. Reboletti tried to pull the thief out of the Jeep, but the thief kicked him, swore at him, and threatened to kill him. Reboletti backed off, and the thief drove away in his 2017 Jeep. The second vehicle, a blue Ford Exposition, also fled.

Another method is distraction. The criminals place a $20.00 bill under the windshield wiper of a parked car. When the driver gets out to retrieve the $20.00 bill, the thieves jump into the car and drive away.

A third method is armed robbery. On December 18, 2017, an off-duty Chicago police officer was sitting in his personal car two blocks from police department headquarters on the South Side. Two men approached the officer’s car. One man tapped on the passenger’s side window to distract the officer. The other man, Carlos Hendricks, age 18, went to the driver’s side, pulled a gun, and demanded the car. According to the Chicago Tribune article “Police: Charges filed against man shot while carjacking off-duty Chicago cop near headquarters,” the officer fired one shot and hit Hendricks in the abdomen. Hendricks was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The other suspect ran away and remained at large as of December 19. A gun belonging to Hendricks was recovered from the scene.

—By Karen Centowski