Carjacking is on the rise in the U.S. this year, and some blame COVID-19.
The number of reported carjackings in Chicago has more than doubled to 1,125 this year, according to the latest Chicago police statistics, compared to 501 in 2019, says ABC News.
And Chicago is not the only example of this disturbing crime trend. Minneapolis police report that carjackings there have shot up 537 percent this year.
Carjacking calls to 911 in New Orleans are up 126 percent. Oakland police cite an increase of 38 percent.
And while many police departments do not keep carjacking-specific numbers, instead classifying them as auto theft or armed robbery, crime experts like Chris Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, say anecdotal reports of a carjacking surge are coming in from metropolitan areas around the country, including Milwaukee, Louisville, Nashville, and Kansas City.
Herrmann explains that the pandemic, which has normalized mask-wearing, makes these thefts easier.
“If we weren’t in a pandemic and you saw a guy coming up to your car with a mask on, you probably would freak out and hit the gas pedal,” he explained.
“But nowadays, everyone’s wearing masks. So there’s this anonymity part of the pandemic that I think a lot of criminals are taking advantage of.”
A study from earlier this month by the Police Executive Forum, or PERF, revealed that crimes that involve vehicles, like carjackings and auto theft, are on the rise because, in part, there are fewer officers available to patrol as resources have been reallocated, says The Detroit Bureau.
Data for auto theft is easier to come by and, according to Herrmann, the numbers show that crime is also spiking in many cities this year, including a rise of 68 percent in New York, 36 percent in Los Angeles and 34 percent in Philadelphia. But carjackings draw attention as the violent, potentially fatal version of auto theft.
Most often, three or four young men approach a woman outside her vehicle and at gunpoint order her to surrender the vehicle and then drive off. They also call for an Uber or Lyft and do something similar once the driver arrives.
Minneapolis Police Commander Charlie Adams told ABC News that “80 percent of our carjackings and robberies are being done by juveniles, ages from 9 up to 17.”
COVID has not only closed schools, it has kept juvenile detention centers from holding arrested youngsters, Adams said. “Some of these have been involved in 10 or more robberies. They’re not being held,” he noted.