Carjacking Stats and Facts and How to Avoid this Serious Auto Theft Crime

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Carjacking Stats and Facts and How to Avoid this Serious Auto Theft Crime

Carjacking is a serious form of motor vehicle theft that often times involves threats and other types of force to rob a person of their vehicle. In some cases the victims are left unharmed. Some cases, however, involve physical assault, kidnapping, rape, and even murder. Those who escape the carjacking without a scratch are often left with the psychological ramifications of the frightening ordeal. 

The following are some important stats and facts on the crime of carjacking, as well as some important tips to help decrease your risk of becoming a victim of this potentially life-threatening crime. 

Carjacking History

Carjacking has been in practice for decades. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the crime caught the media’s attention and the term ‘carjacking’ became a household name. 

From the 1960s thru the mid 1980s, there were a series of hijackings of semi trucks across the nation. The hijacker would essentially steal the truck’s payload without causing harm to the truck driver. Not long thereafter citizens began having their vehicles stolen from them by criminals face-to-face. Many of the cases involved physical assault, with drivers being forced out of their cars, pushed to the ground, kicked, and punched. Some victims endured injuries from weapons. 

The most horrifying carjacking cases involved criminals escaping in stolen vehicles with children still in them, which only heightened the publicity of the crimes. The increased publicity soon led to copycat crimes and gave rise to what is now a popular method of robbing innocent people of their vehicles, personal belongings, and peace of mind. 

Another reason carjackings have increased over the years is thought to be due to the increase in anti-theft devices in motor vehicles. While technology is making it more and more difficult for parked vehicles to be stolen when they are vacant, that same technology gives some criminals cause to carry out a carjacking to get what he or she wants.

Facts & Stats on Carjacking

Carjacking is not a crime in itself. Instead such crimes are reported as motor vehicle theft (or auto theft) or armed robbery. The only U.S. entity to produce data specific to carjackings is the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The following is some of the important carjacking data derived from their National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which was conducted between 1993 and 2002: 

  • 93% of the criminals who committed carjackings were men.
  • An estimated 38,000 carjackings occurred each year.
  • 74% of carjacking crimes involved a weapon—45% involve firearms, 11% involve a knife, and 18% involve some other weapon.
  • Carjackings resulted in 15 homicides per year.
  • Most carjackings occurred in metropolitan areas, followed by suburb and rural locations.
  • Approximately 63% of carjackings occurred within 5 miles of the victim’s residence.

Because carjackings are not reported as standalone crimes, understanding the true prevalence of this form of auto theft is challenging. The NCVS survey is the only data available that provides insight to the nature of carjacking crimes.

Occurrence of Carjackings & Consequences to Victims

According to the NCVS survey, the majority of carjackings take place in large cities with large populations. However, a carjacking can occur anywhere. Approximately 44% occur in open areas, such as on a street; 24% occur in parking lots and garages near stores and other businesses, such as gas stations, malls, and office buildings. Some carjackings happen when drivers stop at an intersection or stoplight, with the carjackers waiting in a nearby car for their victims.

The majority of carjackings take place at night; approximately 68% per the NCVS survey. This is likely because there are less people around during the evening, which equates into fewer witnesses, and the darkness makes it easier to hide and conceal one’s identity. 

One of the ways carjackers hijack their victims’ vehicles is to purposely bump into it from behind. This typically causes the driver to stop and get out of their car to assess for damage, only to be overcome by the carjacker(s). It’s a setup that, unfortunately, places everyone at risk.

Victims of carjackings often suffer emotional trauma for months and even years after their terrifying event. Some suffer PTSD-like symptoms, including nightmares and panic attacks, and require the services of a professional counselor. Some victims find it impossible to drive again as a result of the trauma they experienced. 

Tips to Reduce Your Risk of a Carjacking

Avoiding a carjacking requires being vigilant and aware of the possible danger lurking around you. The following are some safety and security tips that can help reduce your risk of being carjacked: 

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. 
  • Be suspicious of EVERYONE around, especially of people sitting in car nearby your own. 
  • Always look around, inside, and under your vehicle before entering it. 
  • If someone attempts to approach you, put your hand up and direct them to STOP. If they continue toward you, retreat and yell for help to attract attention to yourself. 
  • When shopping at night, ask a store employee or security guard to walk you to your car.
  • Avoid parking near bushes, walls, dumpsters, and other fixtures that someone can use as a hiding place.
  • Beware of people selling candy or other merchandise in parking lots. 
  • Always park in well-lit areas at night.
  • Make sure no one is following you when walking to your car when out in public.
  • Enter your car quickly and lock the doors as soon as you get in. 
  • Keep your doors locked when you’re driving and keep your windows rolled up when you come to a stop.
  • Use valet parking whenever possible, especially if you are a woman and traveling alone. 
  • If your car is ever bumped by another vehicle, be cautious. If possible, drive to a public area where there are lots of people before getting out of your vehicle to assess for damage or call the police for assistance.
  • Listen to your gut—if you feel like something isn’t right, leave the area immediately or dial 911.

If you ever find yourself confronted by a carjacker, follow these important tips:

  • Do not argue with the carjacker. Hand over your keys and whatever other items he/she demands.
  • NEVER leave with a carjacker no matter what threats are used, as it may be the last car ride of your life. Do Run, scream, fight—whatever is necessary to prevent from being kidnapped. 
  • Make sure to write down your license plate and vehicle identification number (VIN) on and keep it someplace safe. If your car is ever taken by a carjacker, the police will need this information to locate your vehicle. The faster you can provide this information the better! 

Don’t Let a Carjacker Steal Your Sense of Security!

As you can see, carjacking is a serious crime that robs you not only of your car but also your sense of security. To ensure you don’t fall victim of this potentially life-threatening crime, be sure to implement the safety and security measures discussed in this article.