Countering Carjacking

As rates rise, do you know how you can protect yourself?


Wesley Henshaw

Carjacking occurs as you get into or while you are already in your car. It is important that you don’t just hang around. Instead, unlock your car, get in, and drive away quickly to minimize the threat.

Wesley Henshaw, Managing Editor

Story updated to include correction regarding number of carjackings in St. Louis area.

Recently carjacking rates have spiked nationwide. In St. Louis last year there were approximately 350 carjackings, up from 2017, where there were more than 250. As the rates increase, it leaves one to wonder what precautions one can take to prevent this from happening to them.

Before continuing, it is important to identify the difference between carjacking and general car theft.

The main distinguishing factor is that carjacking, according to the Department of Justice, necessitates that the perpetrator takes a motor vehicle “from the person or presence of another by force and violence or by intimidation, or attempts to do so.”

One of the main theories for the aforementioned spike is actually the better security systems in cars today. For instance, many cars now only operate with the proximity of a key fob. Meaning, it’s now easier for car thieves to steal the car directly from you than break into the car.

So how does one combat this issue? Well, there are a few simple yet important precautions you can take.

Since carjacking most often happens as you are getting into or are already in the car, it is important that you park in a safe, well-lit place, preferably as close to the building as possible. Having someone with you can also help.

You also want to minimize the amount of time it takes getting to your car. Make sure you have your keys ready and quickly get into your car and drive away as soon as you can.

“The longer you’re sitting stationary the more likely something’s going to happen,” School Resource Officer Travis Layton said.

However, there is something much more important in preventing carjacking, and any crime for that matter.

“I would just stress the fact that the biggest thing you can do to prevent yourself from being a victim of [carjacking] is to be aware of your surroundings,” Layton said.

Situational awareness dissuades attackers, as they often rely on the element of surprise and rarely target someone who sees them coming.

“You want to be alert, eyes up, want to be able to hear, see what’s going on,” Layton said.

In the event that someone does try to carjack you, just give up your keys and let them go. If they’re willing to threaten you with force, they’re willing to use it. Your car is not worth dying over.

Instead, try to get some characteristics of the attacker such as approximate height, weight and age as well as gender and race. Immediately call 911 and an officer will be sent down.

They will have you describe the attacker and your car as well, its make, model, year, color, and license plate. In St. Louis, it’s likely you’ll get your car back, though the condition you get it in is questionable.

“Very often, in this area, when your car gets stolen, whether it’s just stealing a car or carjacking, the reason they’re taking the car is to get from point A to point B, maybe commit some crimes along the way,” Layton said.

The car most often is ditched as soon as it runs out of gas.

While the chances of being carjacked are still low, they are increasing. It is important you are prepared for any situation that could come your way, as proper preparation makes all the difference.