Carjacking has become one of the most prevalent crimes in many parts of the world. Most carjackings occur for the sole purpose of taking the car; it is a crime without a political agenda.
You can protect yourself by becoming familiar with the methods, ruses, and locations commonly used by carjackers.
Police experts recommend that drivers should agree to all demands, and try to draw notice of the situation to passersby. If there is an opportunity to escape, do it, but remember to weigh the risk of escalating an already volatile event.
The first step to avoid becoming a victim is to stay alert at all times and be aware of the surrounding environment. The most likely places for a carjacking are:
- 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
Learn to avoid these areas and situations if possible. If not, take steps to prevent an attack.
In traffic, look around 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 — about one-half of the vehicle's length. (Rule of thumb: The rear tires of the vehicle traveling directly in front should be visible.)
When stopped, use the rear- and side-view mirrors to stay aware of the surroundings. Also, keep doors locked and windows up. This increases safety and makes it more difficult for an attacker to surprise you.
Accidents are one ruse used by attackers to control a victim. The following are common scenarios leading up to a carjacking:
The Bump: The attacker bumps the victim's vehicle from behind. The victim gets out to assess the damage and exchange information. The victim's vehicle is taken.
Good Samaritan: The attacker(s) stage what appears to be an accident. They may simulate an injury. The victim stops to assist, and the vehicle is taken.
The Ruse: The vehicle behind the victim flashes its lights or the driver waves to 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 use surveillance to follow the victim home. When the victim pulls into his or her driveway waiting for the gate or garage door to open, the attacker pulls up behind and blocks the victim's car.
The bottom line: Think before stopping to assist in an accident. It may be safer to call and report the location, number of cars involved, and any injuries observed.In all cases, keep your cell phone or radio with you and immediately alert someone regarding your situation.
In most carjacking situations, the attackers are interested only in the vehicle. Try to stay calm. Do not stare at the attacker as this may seem aggressive and cause them to harm you.
Also, while some people think that carrying a weapon or pepper spray may fend off attackers, police strongly advise drivers be properly trained to use them. However, they warn that these weapons could be turned against a driver.
Act After an Attack
Always carry a cell phone or radio on your person. If you are in a populated area, immediately go to a safe place before contacting someone to report the incident.
Immediately report the crime and clearly describe the event. What time of day did it occur? Where did it happen? How did it happen? Who was involved?
Describe the attacker(s). Without staring during the event, try to note height, weight, scars or other marks, hair and eye color, the presence of facial hair, build (slender, large), and complexion (dark, fair). 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.).
The golden rule for descriptions is to give only that information you absolutely remember. If you are not sure, don't guess.
Remember, in the end, avoidance is the best way to prevent an attack.