Aug 1, 2023 - News

Chicago carjackings fall as auto thefts rise

Data: City of Chicago; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: City of Chicago; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chicago auto thefts may be way up for the year, but carjackings have finally fallen.

The big picture: Law enforcement officials think the trends may be linked.

  • "I believe some offenders are thinking stealing cars rather than carjacking them allows them to keep the car longer with less risk of getting picked up," Cook County Sheriff's Office director Roe Conn tells Axios.

Yes, but: Conn also credits the carjacking task force —a joint effort among city, county and state law enforcement — for improved car recovery rates and times, which he says averaged 40% and 10 days, respectively, in spring 2021.

  • "This year, we're getting close to 90% recovery, and the average time for recovery is just under two days," he says.
  • The work got an extra boost this spring when the Illinois Secretary of State directed $21 million to address the problem.

Be smart: Conn recently shared tips on what to do before or during a carjacking.

  • Anticipate that the offenders will demand your keys, phone, wallet and PINs. Stay calm and cooperate.
  • Let the offender know if there's a child in the car. "The majority of the time they will let the child go, because they don't want an extra kidnapping charge," he says.
  • Keep copies of your registration and insurance card on other devices or with a loved one.
  • Memorize your license plate number. You'll need it when you call 911, so law enforcement can get manufacturer permission to track your car.
  • You can speed that up by registering with the sheriff's tracking program.

Pro tips: Conn notes that carjackings can happen anywhere, but there are ways to reduce your chances of falling prey to them.

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Plan to leave right after you get in your car.
  • Always lock your car doors immediately.
  • Make sure you can see the back tires of the car in front of you so you have room to maneuver out of a dangerous situation.
  • Don't approach your car from the street with your keys in your hands. Approach it from the sidewalk and keep your keys and phone in your pockets until you're in the car.
  • Park in well-lighted areas if available.
  • Never leave your car while it's running, even for a minute.

What's next: A newly signed state law establishing a 24/7 stolen vehicle hotline goes into effect Jan. 1.


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