Carjacking is on the rise in Philadelphia and across the country, often with deadly results.
Back in 2010, I wrote a Crime Beat column on carjacking for small business owners, but the information and crime prevention tips apply to all, and still apply today.
You can read my column below:
For many small business owners, a car is as essential a tool as a computer.
In past columns, I’ve covered how car thieves can strip a parked car of its parts in less than five minutes, and I interviewed a police captain about thieves who break into parked cars and steal valuables.
In this column, I’d like to cover carjacking, which is a far greater crime as it involves an armed criminal and often the victim is terrorized, hurt or killed.
One story that illustrates the violent nature of carjacking occurred on Galveston Island in Texas last week. According to reports of the incident, a woman was sitting in the passenger side of an idling car when a man armed with an ax stepped into the driver’s seat and took off. The man would not let the woman out of the car, and he threatened to kill her with the ax.
This story might have ended in tragedy had the carjacker not crashed into another car. As a result of the crash, the carjacker was trapped in the car. Local firefighters pulled the man out. Local police officers arrested him. The woman was unharmed.
In Atlantic City back in May, another victim of carjacking was not so fortunate.
The family of Martin Caballero, 47, pleaded with the public to help find their loved one after Caballero disappeared on May 21st from the Trump Taj Mahal casino parking lot just minutes just minutes after arriving. He traveled to Atlantic City to help celebrate his daughter’s birthday.
According to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office on June 3rd, Jessica Kisby, 24, and Craig Arno, 44, were charged with murder after a body discovered in a farmer’s field was identified as Caballero. According to the Atlantic County Medical Examiner, the cause of death was multiple stab wounds to the chest.
A day earlier the Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel charged Kisby and Arno with the carjacking and kidnapping of Caballero. Housel stated he believed the victim did not know his attackers. The carjacking was a random crime.
Police officers and security experts say carjacking is preventable if one stays alert to their surroundings and follows the below security steps:
- When stopped for a traffic light or other reasons, carefully observe what is happening around your car, via your side and rearview mirrors. Keep your windows up and doors locked.
- Keep your purse, laptop, and other valuables out of view while driving.
- Drive in the center lane to avoid being pushed over to the shoulder.
- Don’t stop at isolated cash machines or other isolated areas.
- Don’t stop to help a disabled motorist or pedestrian. Stay in your locked car and offer to call a service station or the police from your cell phone.
- Don’t open your window for someone approaching your car asking for directions or trying to sell you something.
- Don’t park your car in an isolated area.
- If you are pulled over by someone in an unmarked car who claims to be a police officer, stay in your locked car and call 911 on your cell phone. Tell the person you are calling 911 to confirm they are in fact a police officer. If the person is truly a police officer, he won’t have a problem with your actions, and if he is not a police officer, he will take off to avoid arrest.
- If you can’t drive away from a bad situation, stay in your locked car and yell and honk your horn repeatedly. Criminals don’t like noise and they tend to run away to avoid attention.
- Below are some of the most common carjacking scenarios:
- When the victim is stopped at a traffic light.
- The carjacker pretends to be stranded.
- The carjacker fakes an accident to get you out of your car.
- The carjacker attacks the victim as they get in their car in parking garages, shopping malls and complex parking, and driveways.
The best defense against a carjacking is having more than one person in the car. Another essential defensive tool is a working cell phone with a charger.
I bought my wife and daughter a large, heavy, tactical flashlight, which they keep beside the driver’s seat in their cars. It is good to have a working flashlight in the car if you need light, and the flashlight doubles as a club if you need to slam it on the hand of someone reaching into your car to harm you.
Businesspeople out on the road can be distracted with thoughts of business, but one should always remain alert and aware of the surroundings. This is the best defense against carjacking.