A carjacking is one of the scariest things that can ever happen to a driver. It's a violent crime that involves stealing a car by force, often at gunpoint or knifepoint. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 49,000 completed and attempted carjackings occurred in America each year. Although your risk of being a carjacking victim is probably pretty low, there are a few precautions you can take to keep you and your vehicle safe.
Why Does Carjacking Happen?
Carjacking occurs for a variety of disturbing reasons, including fleeing the scene of a crime, as a part of a gang initiation ritual, or even just for fun. It is most typically a crime of opportunity. Since there are so many potential cars on the streets and victims to target, car thieves scope out the situation and choose the most vulnerable cars and people. Carjacking is also often linked to other crimes, and your vehicle could be used as a getaway car without you even knowing it.
Who Can Be Affected by Carjacking
The short answer is absolutely anyone. Carjacking is most often associated with inner-city neighborhoods notorious for gang violence, but car theft can happen to anyone anywhere. Since this is a crime of opportunity, carjackers often don't choose victims by age, sex, or race. However, people who appear distracted or that park in isolated areas are especially vulnerable.
What Carjackers Look For
These are some of the opportunities that carjackers commonly look for:
- Self-serve gas stations
- Desolate intersections with stop lights
- Parking garages
- Residential driveways
- Highway exit ramps
One common carjacking strategy is to bump your car from behind to make a minor fender bender appear like an accident. The carjacking occurs when the driver pulls over and gets out to assess the damage. Carjackers have also been known to stage other types of accidents to take advantage of Good Samaritan drivers. Two other common scenarios involve a carjacker flashing their lights behind you in order to signal a maintenance problem, or following you to your home and attacking when you pull in the driveway.
Tips to Prevent Carjacking
- Park in well-lit areas
- Always be hyper-aware of your surroundings
- Equip your car with an anti-theft device
- Lock your doors while driving
- Avoid driving alone at night when possible
- Don't stop for apparently stranded strangers along the road. Note their location and pull over in a safe place once you've passed to call for help.
What to do After an Attack
If you are threatened with a weapon, give up your car – your life is worth more than it is. Try to note as many physical characteristics of the carjacker as possible so that you can provide a detailed report when you call the police. But as always, avoiding a potentially dangerous situation is the best way to prevent an attack. Always carry a cell phone with you when you exit your vehicle and use your best judgment when driving and parking in unfamiliar areas.