According to the Wall Street Journal, a surge in carjackings in Chicago has led to the highest number of car thefts in more than a decade, terrifying residents who are often traumatized about the explosion in homicides and shootings over the past two years.
Law enforcement and crime specialists mostly attribute the surge, which is also evident in Baltimore, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, on “repeat offenders, many of them juveniles who use the cars to commit other crimes or to brag about on social media,” said WSJ.
“You’ll have one of them post that they got a Lexus, and then the other responds and say he stole a Mercedes,” said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Maj. Kenneth Kegel. “It is almost like a game, where they want to one up each other.”
In Chicago, the total number of carjackings have exploded over the last year, from 700 in 2016 to 950 in 2017, which has reached the highest level of car thefts not seen in more than a decade. So far, 2018 is nothing to cheer about, there have already been 100 carjackings in the first forty-three days, even as WSJ says murders and shootings were down 16 percent and 21 percent between 2016 and 2017.
Earlier this month, Chicago officials “assembled a carjacking strike force with federal representatives from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with prosecutors, suburban police and state police,” said WSJ.
Law enforcement experts told the Wall Street Journal, the surge is also attributed to repeat offenders, who use the stolen vehicles to carry out other crimes.
“Both car thefts and jackings have been driven by a need for a motor vehicle to commit additional crimes,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “That crime may be a retaliatory homicide…or the vehicle is sometimes traded for drugs.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, and state lawmakers addressed the skyrocketing trend in carjackings at a news conference on Sunday. Emanuel said the state law must strengthen to combat against carjackers.
Today I stood with @Chicago_Police, state and local lawmakers to call for stronger legislation and announce new technology to combat auto theft, strengthen public safety & empower victims. More: t.co/sghBhK9Vuy pic.twitter.com/Sn6dxXILQN
— Mayor Rahm Emanuel (@ChicagosMayor) February 11, 2018
“Our mission is clear: we want to prevent carjackings and cars from being stolen to strengthen community safety,” Emanuel said. “As a challenge facing communities across the state, we are seeking to use the laws better and more effectively to give victims a better chance to get justice in court.”
Emanuel and Johnson also announced that police vehicles will soon be equipped with license plate scanner technology in hopes to catch more stolen vehicles.
“Public safety cannot be a responsibility left in the hands of law enforcement alone and we need to address the problems we face from every angle to create an effective culture of accountability for violent offenders,” Johnson said. “That is why I am proud to stand side by side with Mayor Emanuel, our lawmakers and community members to call for thoughtful legislation that will give carjacking victims an opportunity for justice in court.”
Two Carjackings in Chicago caught on video:
“It is so concerning and surprising because it seems that these criminals are becoming so emboldened and fearless,” said Lauren Simonson, an 11-year concerned resident of Chicago who was at the news conference and sits on a neighborhood’s watch group.
Further, WSJ says that Chicago Police Department and Chicago’s largest police union blame “lax punishment for juvenile offenders” and a strict chase policy that is enabling the trend in carjackings to flourish.
Chicago police blame the surge on lax punishment for juvenile offenders and light punishments for motor crimes in the state. Chicago’s largest police union also cites a pursuit policy that is more restrictive than in other cities, prohibiting officers from chasing a vehicle being driven erratically for fear of injuring bystanders. Police cite one instance last year where a brother and sister team, both juveniles, were arrested three times in the same week for possession of a stolen vehicle. One of the three teenagers who attempted to carjack the retired officer earlier this month was arrested again less than 48 hours later with another stolen vehicle and a loaded semiautomatic firearm.
“These guys are career criminals, they are repeat offenders,” said Fred Waller, chief of patrol at the Chicago police department. “If they are not held accountable, what deterrent is there to not do it again?”