The crime of choice for many law offenders worldwide is currently car theft. That usually happens either in the presence of the vehicle owner (a form of car theft referred to as carjacking) or in their absence.
The primary purpose of this article is to provide a detailed answer to: “what is carjacking?” by analyzing several elements.
Namely, these elements include the main dangers associated with carjacking, techniques that can be employed to help prevent the practice, and its impact on the insurance industry.
Moreover, towards the end of this article, we will also discuss several recent carjacking cases to raise awareness about this method of theft. So, don’t hesitate and read on.
What Is Carjacking?
Carjacking is a form of car theft in which one or more criminals steal a vehicle while in the presence of its driver and (possibly) rightful owner.
In general, carjacking links to several other crimes, including threat-making and violence, not counting your standard car theft.
As such, carjacking is commonly regarded as a more severe crime than car theft in most of the world’s legal systems. Thus, it also entails larger punishments for offenders due to the victims’ immense damage (emotional, physical, and material).
Carjacking Facts: The Dangers
Carjacking is classified as an extremely dangerous criminal activity. That’s because carjackers often resort to violence and fear and employ actual weapons to steal the vehicles that are being carjacked.
As of now, carjacking has become a common occurrence in many parts of the world, especially in the United States.
Despite the numerous attempts of the authorities to prevent auto theft, around 49,000 incidents involving carjacking are reported every year to the US Department of Justice.
Furthermore, 92% of attempts are made when the driver is alone in the car.
Carjacking is dangerous due to the profiling activity carried out by offenders. In fact, studies show that car thieves often look for people who seem like easy targets (weak from a physical point of view or older).
Similarly, auto jackers also tend to choose areas that aren’t well lit or where there are very few people. Given this, the situation can quickly escalate into violence, leading to injury or even death in some cases.
Attempted carjacking situations are less prevalent. That’s because they entail that the vehicle driver has overpowered the offender. Thus, the offender was unable to steal the vehicle.
Failing carjacking also occurs when law enforcement immobilizes the offender or people pass by.
So far, numerous countries have taken legislative approaches meant to help prevent the rate of carjacking through harsher penalties for offenders who engage in this practice.
Similarly, police patrols have increased, especially in areas where people have fallen victim to a carjacking in the past.
Meanwhile, numerous thieves don’t truly want to engage in violence, seeing how, if caught, they would get larger penalties. Most offenders simply want to steal vehicles to sell them for parts and earn a profit.
How to Prevent Carjacking
For starters, it is crucial to highlight that carjacking is rare, yet it is essential to take several precautionary measures to ensure that you will not become a victim of this vile practice.
Here are a couple of tips worth keeping in mind whenever you are driving a vehicle:
Always Have Your Phone on You and Never Leave It in the Car
This is probably the best advice on how to avoid carjacking that anyone can give you since it also acts as a basic public safety tip.
By keeping your phone with you at all times, you can contact the police or take pictures and videos, which can serve as valuable evidence. Modern smartphones have SOS functions integrated.
These features can be activated discreetly and used to safely contact law enforcement whenever you are in danger. They are particularly useful when traveling in areas that are not safe and thus act as a suitable carjacking prevention device.
Avoid Dangerous Areas, Especially When You Are the Only Person Inside the Vehicle
Car thieves generally operate in high crime neighborhoods at night and in areas with little public lighting, especially if no other people are around.
Therefore, it is best to avoid such areas. But if you have to go, park your vehicle in a well-lit area where other people are present (near a restaurant, market, or event hall). This is an excellent carjacking prevention tip.
Make Sure You Roll Up Your Windows and Lock Your Doors
This will further discourage car thieves since there is no apparent way for them to gain access to your vehicle. Attacking a locked car is generally not a smart move for offenders since the car can be easily driven away.
Similarly, it is crucial to keep in mind that armed carjacking is less likely in these circumstances.
Keep a Close Eye on Suspicious Individuals Lurking Around
They might be watching you too! As such, whenever you find yourself in a dangerous area, it is best to keep a close watch on the people in the vicinity of your vehicle.
In case of suspicious behavior, it’s best to call law enforcement as this action can serve as a highly-effective anti-carjacking strategy.
Be Aware of Carjacking Techniques Offenders Use to Lure Victims
Over time, car thieves have developed several highly effective techniques to access vehicles. For instance, some criminals pretend that they hit your car in an effort to lure you out (especially at night and in desolate areas).
Other car thieves pretend to be stranded drivers, whereas others might try hitchhiking a ride. With this in mind, when driving in dangerous areas or at night, it is better to be suspicious and avoid confrontation with these people.
Another standard method is the paper on back window carjacking, where offenders place a note on your window and then drive off with your car as you head out to inspect the paper in question.
Overall, there are numerous other methods as well. Therefore, drivers should practice extra caution whenever they are behind the wheel. In addition, they should do that even in broad daylight and in highly populated areas.
How to Prevent Car Theft
It goes without saying that car theft is a highly-unpleasant experience to deal with. As a matter of fact, that is mainly because it generally entails following complicated reporting procedures with law enforcement and insurance agents.
In addition, criminal rings have developed numerous strategies meant to reduce the likelihood of being found by the police.
Here are several tips on how to prevent car theft and go through the unpleasant experience.
Always Close Your Windows and Lock Your Car
Many people who have not experienced carjacking or car theft feel a false sense of safety. Namely, they often leave their cars unlocked or their windows open.
This represents a direct invitation for thieves. Even if you are outside your car for a few minutes, lock it and close all the windows. This is the most effective way to reduce the risk of car theft.
Hide Any and All Valuables Present in Your Car
If you want to know how to prevent auto theft, know that leaving valuables in the center console or on the passenger seat can represent an open invitation to thieves, increasing their motivation to break into a car.
Generally, thieves who steal possessions present in the car do not steal the vehicle itself. Yet, if someone breaks your window and steals your laptop, that’s not a pleasant experience.
Similarly, leaving valuables out may also encourage some thieves to teach you what carjacking is.
Always Park in Areas That Are Well-Lit and Secure
So, if you want to know how to prevent auto theft, this represents yet another efficient way. When choosing a parking spot, it’s best to look for well-lit places under the surveillance of CCTV cameras and where pedestrians walk.
If no such places are available nearby, a better choice might be to park the vehicle further away from your destination and proceed to walk or call an Uber.
Insure Your Vehicle Against Theft
While this is not a car theft prevention method, it’s an excellent technique for reducing the financial impact of having your car stolen.
Next time you renew your insurance policy, get theft coverage as well. Do that, especially if you live in or often travel to a region associated with high crime rates.
Get a Car Anti-theft Device
The steering wheel and gear shift locks are highly-effective devices that can discourage potential car thieves. It is important to keep in mind that such tools are not foolproof. Therefore highly-motivated thieves might still be able to steal the car.
Also, numerous modern cars feature GPS-based tracking systems. They can be used to locate a vehicle that has been stolen.
As such, this strategy should be employed alongside the other tips that have been outlined thus far.
Indeed, installing anti-carjacking devices takes time and money, but they are beneficial if you live in neighborhoods with high crime rates.
Know and Use Your Vehicle’s Identification Number
All cars have a unique identification number, referred to as a VIN.
So, keep in mind that this number can be used to check if a car you are willing to purchase has been stolen. Law enforcement agencies can also leverage it to find stolen vehicles and their respective parts.
In fact, the VIN also helps you learn more about the history of a used vehicle (accidents, service no. of owners, etc.).
What to Do in a Carjacking Situation
The most critical thing is prioritizing your safety in such a situation, as material things can be replaced, and life cannot.
That said, victims should immediately give up their vehicles and leave the place, avoiding physical or verbal confrontations. Also, they should remember what the carjacker looks like and whether other vehicles were involved in the crime.
Victims should clarify if a child is in the car so that the carjackers don’t drive away with the child in the car. It’s crucial to call 911.
Recent Cases That Will Showcase the True Carjacking Definition
These cases will also show you how everyone is always at imminent risk of having their vehicles stolen.
An Armed 17-Year-Old Carjacked a Vehicle and Caused a Multi-Car Accident in Baltimore
In this case, a 17-year-old carjacked a vehicle by threatening to use violence on the owner. After a car chase, the car was involved in a multi-car accident that also caused an injury. The incident happened in broad daylight.
Spike in Carjacking in Chicago Suburbs
A carjacking attack in Naperville, Aurora, left a woman in critical condition. That happened when the offenders stole her vehicle at Wendy’s parking lot.
Moreover, according to the investigators, the offenders committed at least one more carjacking the same weekend.
So, we should also mention here that Chicago is one of the cities with the highest number of carjackings in the United States. That is to say; you can get some info here if you want to know how to prevent carjacking in Chicago.
A 7 and 12-Year-Old Carjacked an Elderly Woman in Ipswich
According to BBC, two little boys carjacked an older woman at knifepoint. While she was (thankfully) physically unhurt following the incident, she was visibly shaken from a psychological point of view.
The police later recovered the vehicle from the said carjack and found the two suspects.
Insurance Agents, Scrap Dealers, and Car Thieves Create Car Theft Ring
A car theft ring was recently uncovered in Delhi. There, insurance agents sold vehicles involved in accidents to scrap dealers. Moreover, the cars were dismantled, and their engine and chassis numbers were mounted in similar vehicles that had been stolen.
Thus, the ring led to creating “legal” stolen vehicles.
What Is Carjacking and Car Theft’s Impact on the Insurance Industry?
Currently, reports indicate that the police never find most vehicles involved in carjacking or car theft. That’s due to the comprehensive strategies employed by thieves to hide their marks and quickly sell the cars and their respective parts.
Hence, in the world’s regions where there are highly-common car theft and carjacking cases, the insurance industry is bound to be affected by the practice, as carjacking facts confirm.
Insurance works by many people paying a low monthly premium, covering a low number of expensive events, like car accidents or car theft.
Generally, insurance companies calculate the monthly premium by considering the agency’s profit alongside its operational costs and the price of the expected coverage.
In case a particular region has more cases of carjackings, the monthly premiums increase over the long term.
Many insurance agents have created extended coverage policies that are more expensive yet cover all forms of damage and loss of property that can occur.
That’s why, some cheap policies may not offer coverage in the case of theft; to create such a policy, they must first answer the questions “what is carjacking” and “how often does it occur.”
To determine whether car theft occurs in your area or learn more about the practice in general, you can check out this series of car theft statistics.
Overall, we can conclude that car theft is more prevalent when compared to carjacking. However, the latter is generally more dangerous since it usually involves violence or at least threats to violence, which we can confirm after learning the carjacking meaning.
Luckily, numerous strategies can drastically reduce car theft risk, as this article has already shown you.
The bottom line is that you should always park in secure spots. Also, keep an eye out for suspicious individuals or criminals. They may try to lure you in using one of the many effective techniques that will teach you what carjacking means first-hand.
People Also Ask
What kind of crime is carjacking?
All in all, carjacking is a serious crime. In fact, it represents a vehicle robbery, with the added aggravator of violence and/or threats. Here one or more criminals proceed to steal a vehicle directly from its owner using threats or violence.
Moreover, some carjackings end in injuries or even the victim’s death if the carjacker pushes the situation further.
How long do you go to jail for carjacking?
The answer to this question depends on the local laws applicable in your jurisdiction. In the United States, the general punishment for carjacking ranges from 3 to 9 years in prison, restitution of the money to the victim, alongside a fine (up to $10,000).
Moreover, if the victim sustained injuries from the carjacking incident, the carjacker might get additional three or six years to the initial sentence.
How common is carjacking?
There are around 49,000 carjacking incidents yearly in the US. However, the incidence of this practice depends on where you live. For instance, in Minneapolis, carjackings increased by 537% in 2020. Moreover, carjacking calls to 911 rose by 126% in New Orleans that year.
What’s even more concerning is that these numbers are maybe even higher. That’s because many police departments classify such incidents as car theft or armed robbery.
What do carjackers do with the cars they steal?
After carjacking and getting away with a car, some carjackers sell the vehicle for parts, like their motors or catalytic converters.
In addition, they may ship the car to another part of the world where there’s no international law enforcement cooperation. That way, they won’t get caught.
More usually than not, older cars are targeted. That’s because they are simpler to break into, and they are generally less protected than new models.
Is carjacking a robbery?
The law definition of robbery is purposely, permanently depriving other people of their property under threat, without consent, or by force. So — yes, carjacking represents a form of robbery.
For instance, New York prosecutors charge carjackers with robbery. Generally speaking, robbery is one of the most severe crimes, ranking just beneath murder in severity. So, what is carjacking, and what is a robbery? If we want to differentiate the two, we should know that the former involves stealing a car.