Defense Against Crime

August 4, 2009

It’s Just a Car..it’s not worth your life


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The Headline read “Boxer Vernon Forrest Murdered in Attempted Car Jacking in Atlanta, Georgia.”  You may have heard of the events concerning the former two-division world champion Vernon Forrest who was shot and killed on the night of  August 1, 1009 during an attempted robbery, police said Sunday. 

According to the police reports Forrest was shot seven or eight times — at least once in the head — as he chased at least two men who had tried to steal his Jaguar as he put air in its tires at an Atlanta gas station. Forrest had a gun and confronted the men, who fatally wounded him with two semiautomatic weapons, according to police.

 It’s Just a Car..it’s not worth your life

 Carjacking is the violent form of motor vehicle theft. Most car jacking happen because the car is in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is a serious threat to your personal safety because the thief uses force and fear to rob your car from you. Sometimes the vehicle owner or other passengers are taken during a carjacking, and if lucky they will be dropped off at a nearby location, unharmed. The worst case scenario occurs when you are taken to another location and are victims of another criminal act, which is usually more dangerous than the original vehicle theft.  These secondary crimes are usually rape, aggravated assault, kid napping for a ransom, or even murder

Car Jacking have been in the news since the mid-1980s, carjacking has captured the attention of the news media with reports of these sudden and aggressive attacks and robberies. Carjackers have unknowingly driven off with children still in the backseat of the car, leaving behind a screaming and emotionally distressed parent. Other car owners have been violently pulled out of their seats at gun point and left lying on the road, terrified by what just occurred.

 The experience from a carjacking can be harrowing to our everyday lives because it creates fear and panic in the normal act of driving a car. Victims of carjacking have reported being unwilling to drive a car again while others required months of therapy. Others have become so oversensitive, that embarrassing and dangerous situations have arisen in response to their fear when someone unwittingly approached their car on foot.

 When did Carjecking begin

Auto theft has existed for a long time. You can therefore that carjacking has always been around, especially in large cities. It is not actively reported. There were probably a break in your neighborhood, and you don’t know about it as well. Car-jacking incidents emerged in increasing numbers in the 1980s and 1990s, after their initial appearance in Detroit. Because the crime is often reported as an auto theft, armed robbery, assault and battery, or murder, statistics on it are not accurate. The crime of ‘carjacking’ became popular in the 1980s after the media published stories of bizarre situations and the violence associated with the act of the crime. The media created the phrase “carjacking” and the crime of auto theft took on a new identity. The concept of stealing a car and terrifying and robbing the victims  must have seem appealing to the criminal that  in typical  human fashion after a rush of publicity, other criminals “copied” the crime of carjacking.  It is also reasoned that the normal route of just stealing a sitting car had be come harder with the technology of auto anti-theft devices and alarm systems. We now have chip-integrated ignition switches, engine cutoff devices, and LoJack stolen vehicle locators are now more common in cars

 Another reason carjacking got started is because of the sophistication and prevalence of new anti-theft devices and alarm systems. New car alarms and steering wheel locking systems made it tougher on the auto thief. Chip-integrated ignition switches, engine cutoff devices, and stolen vehicle locators are now more common in cars. As a result,, thieves have resorted to using surprise and violence to take our cars from us..

 car-jackingSometimes criminals will carjack a vehicle for use in another crime like armed robbery, kid napping, or for a drive-by shooting. These carjackers prefer to have a set of car keys and not have a visibly smashed window or damaged ignition switch that can be easily spotted by the police. This class of car thief is the most dangerous because they are usually heavily armed and are not concerned with your welfare.

 In the early 1990s, car-jackers began targeting older people, women, and tourists — groups of conspicuous vulnerability. The makes and models of the cars targeted for car-jacking vary from city to city — and it is not only the expensive, top-of-the-line cars that are taken but also older and less pricey automobiles. This may be because car-jackings are more crimes of opportunity than of premeditation. Car-jackers simply wait for an unaware driver, an open window, or an unlocked door.

 Popular carjacking locations are parking lots, shopping centers, gas stations, car washes, convenience stores, ATMs, hotels, valet parking, fast-food drive-thru, and outside of retail stores. Close proximity to a freeway onramp is a desirable escape factor from the carjackers prospective. A risky, but popular location for the carjacker is a roadway intersection with a stoplight. A carjacker will jump out of another vehicle, pull open your unlocked drivers’ door, and force you to get out. The type of carjacking allows for a quick escape but increases their risk of being followed by other drivers armed with cell phones. There have been incidents where well-meaning citizens got into a high-speed chase following carjackers and ended up being victims themselves.

 Carjacking Techniques

Accidents are one ruse used by carjackers to steal your car. The following are techniques used by carjackers to steal your car:

The Bump – The attacker bumps your care from behind. When you get out to look at the damage and exchange insurance and driver information, your car is stolen by one of his partners.  Stay in your car and call the police.

Good Samaritan -The attacker(s) stage what appears to be an accident. They may simulate an injury. If you get out of your car to help, your at a position to be car jacked.  Just call the police

The Ruse -The vehicle behind  your car  flashes its lights or the driver waves to get your attention. The attacker tries to indicate that there is a problem with your car. When you pulled over, you get car jacked.

The Trap -Carjackers use surveillance to follow you home. When you pull into your driveway or  waiting for the gate to open, the attacker pulls up behind and blocks your car.

Prevenative Measures

There are several things you need to know in order not to be a victim. The first one is true, not matter what “ Be mindful of your surrounds, pay attention to all things going on.

 The most likely places for a carjacking are:

  • High crime areas 
  • Intersections where you must stop 
  • Isolated areas in parking lots 
  • Residential driveways and gates
  • Traffic jams or congested areas

Try to avoid these areas and situations if at all possible.

This crime has become one of the top in the nation. A high number of carjacking attempts (92%) are committed when the person is alone in their car.  The areas where these attempts were made are more often than not in parking lots of businesses and apartments, at intersections when the person stops for a traffic signal and at schools. The carjacker is similar to other theives in the way they look for their prey.

  • They tend to choose dark areas where there are not a lot of people.
  • They look for someone who is an easy target.
  • They look for individuals who seem weaker than they are, or who will not fight.

 In traffic, look around for possible avenues of escape. Keep some distance between you and the vehicle in front so you can maneuver easily if necessary–about one-half of your vehicle’s length. (You should always be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you.)

When stopped, use your rear and side view mirrors to stay aware of your surroundings. Also keep your doors locked and windows up. This increases your safety and makes it more difficult for an attacker to surprise you.

If you are driving into a gated community, call ahead to have the gate opened. Otherwise wait on the street until the gate is open before turning in and possibly getting trapped.

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 you observed.

Carjacking of parked vehicles depends on the car owner being inattentive to their surroundings. Carjackers, like street robbers, prefer the element of surprise. Most victims say they never saw the carjacker until they appeared at their car door. To reduce your risk of being carjacked, I have listed some common sense steps below: 

  • Be alert to what is happening around you!
  • Avoid driving in isolated places.
  • Always park in well-lighted areas, if you plan to arrive/leave after dark
  • Don’t park in isolated or visually obstructed areas near walls or heavy foliage
  • Use valet parking or an attended garage, if you’re a woman driving alone
  • If you’re traveling an unfamiliar route, check and recheck directions before you set out, so that you don’t have to pull over and stop along the way.
  • As you walk to your car be alert to suspicious persons sitting in cars
  • Ask for a security escort if you are alone at a shopping center /mall/office building.
  • Watch out for young males loitering in the area (handing out flyers, etc)
  • If someone tries to approach, change direction or run to a busy store
  • Consider carrying pepper spray
  • Consider installing an auto theft device like the car immobilizer
  • Consider installing a tracking device, incase of theft. Even the OnStar can help in stopping and tracking a stolen car.
  • Don’t tailgate. Carjackers love to box you in and not leave you any way out. So if you do tailgate, you’re doing half of their work for them.
  • Whenever possible, drive in the middle lane to minimize the chance of being forced off the road by another vehicle.
  • Follow your instincts if they tell you to walk/run away to a busy place
  • As you approach your vehicle, look under, around, and inside your car. If safe, open the door, enter quickly, and lock the doors
  • Don’t be a target by turning your back while loading packages into the car
  • Make it your habit to always lock your car door start your car and drive away immediately
  • Teach and practice with your children to enter and exit the car quickly
  • Always drive with your car doors locked and windows rolled up
  • When stopped in traffic, leave room ahead to maneuver and escape, if necessary. One full car length will generally provide the room you need.
  • If you are bumped in traffic, by young males, be suspicious of the accident
  • Beware of the Good Samaritan who offers to repair your car or a flat tire. It’s okay to get help, just be alert.  Wave to follow, and drive to a gas station or busy place before getting out
  • If you are ever confronted by an armed carjacker don’t resist. ”   Give up your keys or money if demanded without resistance.  Don’t argue, fight or chase the robber. You can be seriously injured. If you’re alone and you’re given the opportunity, get out and get away. Never agree to be kidnapped. Drop the cars keys and run and scream for help
  • If there are vulnerable passengers in the car, such as a child or senior citizen, you’ll have to make a hard decision about how to best proceed. Try to keep level headed so that you can think and act clearly, under this stressful situation. One suggestion is to tell the carjacker that you don’t want any trouble be cause your passenger (child. Or parent) has a medical condition and you’re going to take them out of the car. Chances are the carjacker don’t want trouble, either; they just want your care.
  • If you are forced to drive, consider crashing your car near a busy intersection to attract attention so bystanders can come to your aid and call the police.
  • If you are bumped from behind or if someone tries to alert you to a problem with your vehicle, pull over only when you reach a safe public place.

 If you are the victim of a carjacking, do not hesitate to inform the police. This is a felony and the perpetrator can be jailed from three to ten years. The odds of finding your car intact may be quite good if you let the police know as soon as possible.

 By Victor Swindell, owner of PepperEyes.com, a division of Swindell Enterprises. PepperEyes.com is dedicated to assist those people who are unwilling to become a victim and are taking responsibility to protect themselves, their cars, or their possessions .In today’s society being equipped mentally and physically is no longer an option.

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