Carjacking is the word used to describe an incident in which a person uses the threat of bodily harm to force a victim to give up their vehicle.
Carjacking may be committed in conjunction with kidnapping, when a passenger or driver in the car is taken along with the vehicle.
The best way of protecting yourself is by understanding and becoming familiar with the methods, ruses, and locations that are commonly used by carjackers.
Is Carjacking Common?
Carjacking is on the increase there is no doubt about it. With so many cars now having anti-theft devices, it becomes a lot harder for a criminal to take a car from a garage. Because of this, it is the easiest option for a criminal to steal the car by taking the keys from the person who is driving it.
To help avoid carjacking in the first place, it helps to learn how to be alert at all times and be aware of the surrounding environment with situational awareness.
Their are certain areas that are more likely to be where carjacking occur. These areas include:
- High crime areas
- Lesser traveled roads (e.g., rural areas)
- Intersections where vehicles must stop
- Isolated areas in parking lots
- Residential driveways and gate
- Traffic jams or congested areas
It is a good idea to try and avoid these areas and situations where possible but it probably isn’t possible to always avoid them. In which case you need to take steps to prevent an attack.
Anytime that you are in traffic you need to keep your head about you and be on the lookout for possible avenues of escape.
Drivers should keep some distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them to enable the ability to easily maneuver out of a situation.
If stopped, constantly be checking the rear- and side-view mirrors to stay aware of the surroundings. Also, keep doors locked and windows up.
- Always drive with your windows up and your doors locked
- Avoid high crime areas
- Park in well-lit areas and not close to areas where your attacker may hide
- Glance in the back seat and around the area before you enter
- Approach your vehicle with your keys in hand. You do not want to stand at the door fumbling through your pockets or purse looking for the keys.
Below, we are going to take a look at some common scenarios leading up to a carjacking. These are:
- The Bump – This is most probably the most common scenario and involves the criminal bumping into the victim’s vehicle from behind. When the victim gets out to assess the damage and exchange information, their vehicle is taken.
- The Ruse – The vehicle behind the victim flashes its lights or the driver to try and get the victim’s attention. The attacker tries to indicate that there is a problem with the victim’s car. The victim pulls over, and the vehicle is taken.
- The Trap – Carjackers may follow the victim home. As the victim pulls into their driveway waiting for the gate or garage door to open, the criminal pulls up behind and blocks the victim’s car.
- The Good Samaritan – The criminals stage what appears to be an accident or a lone person needing help with their car. As the victim stops to assist, their vehicle is taken.
Always think before stopping your car to assist in an accident or for anybody that looks like they may need help. If you see a car at the side of the road in which the driver is waving you down, it may be safer to call and report the location, number of cars involved, and any injuries observed.
Always keep your cell phone with you and immediately alert someone regarding your situation.
In almost all carjacking situations, the criminals are only really interested in the vehicle, not the occupants. Remain calm and do not stare at the attacker as this may seem aggressive and cause them to harm you.
If you live in an area in which certain weapons are allowed, be sure that you are fully trained in its use as they could just as easily be turned on and used on you.
What to do During a Carjacking
Sometimes even after taking all the necessary precautions, it can still happen. When it does, you will have to figure out your best option.
Compliance with the criminal is often the safest course of action to take. Give them what they want. If you are not in the car yet and the carjacker demands the keys, throw them. Make the criminal recover the keys and take off running and yelling for help.
If you have your child in the car, tell the attacker right away. Most want nothing to do with the added complication of a child.
If you are already in your car, you must immediately check your options. You may be able to drive away. If you are in traffic and have kept the space betwee your vehicle and the vehicle in front, you should have room to drive. Drive on the sidewalk, drive in a yard — just drive and do it immediately.
If a carjacker jumps into the passenger seat, exit the vehicle straight away if at all possible. If you are forced to drive, then you are in a bad position, but you are not defenseless.
If you see no way out and you are wearing your seat belt, it may be best to crash the car. Most carjackers are not going to wear seat belts and certainly will not be expecting you to take off and run directly into the car in front of you or a tree (preferably on their side).
What to do After a Carjacking
As we mentioned above, you should always carry a cell phone on you. If you are in a populated area, immediately go to a safe place before contacting someone to report the incident.
Report the crime immediately and give the following information:
- Describe the event
- What time of day did it occur
- Where did it happen
- How did it happen
- Who was involved
- Describe the attacker with as much information as you can.
- Describe the attacker’s vehicle. If possible, get the vehicle license number, color, make, and model, as well as any marks (scratches, dents, or damage) and personal decorations (stickers, colored wheels, etc.).
Don’t try to force yourself to remember details. Only give those for which you are 100% sure that you absolutely remember.
Remember, in the end, avoidance is the best way to prevent an attack.