The holiday season is generally associated with cheer, although there is a sad and unfortunate dark side that also emerges during the holidays – crime. Crimes that often occur are almost always related to some form of theft and include: purse snatching, breaking and entering, charity scams and retail crime. According to the Washington Post, retail crime increases about 30 percent during the holidays. Another common type of theft that can occur during the holidays is carjacking.
What is carjacking?
A carjacking is a crime where the perpetrator forcefully takes a vehicle from the victim. Its definition is, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a “completed or attempted robbery of a motor vehicle by a stranger to the victim.” Carjacking is a separate category from car theft because the victim is present and threats are involved.
In some cases, no violence is involved, but sadly, in many carjack incidents, the victim is injured, or worse. On Dec. 15, a deadly incident occurred at a New Jersey mall where a 30-year-old man was shot. The man and his wife were victims of a carjacking while out shopping during the mall’s extended holiday shopping hours. Other incidents include kidnapping or a child is still strapped in the car seat as the carjacker speeds off in the car.
According to the The Free Dictionary, carjacking incidents began to emerge in increased numbers during the 1980s and 1990s; it is still a problem today. It can occur anywhere, but during the holidays, there is high possibility the crime will occur at shopping centers and malls. Cars are often disassembled and sold for parts, or exported and sold.
Increased number of carjackings
The holiday season is a common time for crime for a number of reasons. People may be desperate for money to buy gifts and/or criminals know people are likely to be carrying goods or money as they shop. The reason for the increase in carjacking is reportedly due to the progress made in anti-theft and security features, which makes a car harder to steal in a typical theft attempt. With the increased security mechanisms, the thief needs the keys to make for an easier theft and getaway. According to Global Security Experts, the better technology gets, the higher risk of a carjack.
While carjacking has become more prominent in recent decades, it is still a crime where statistics are being brought up to date. According to College Station Police, FBI statistics note only a small percentage of arrests are made for this crime.
Safety tips for holiday shopping
These tips are important year-round, but theft-related crime, in general, tends to increase over the holidays, it is important to be especially vigilant and know what to look for in order to decrease chances of becoming a carjacking victim.
- Pay close attention to your surroundings.
- Always be on alert to any activity near your car.
- Check the inside of your car before entering it.
- Have keys in your hand as you approach your car.
- If any suspicious persons are hanging around your car, keep walking.
- Pay careful attention to people asking questions or handing out flyers, this could be a ruse.
- Once in your car, lock it immediately.
- If suspicious strangers are walking on your street, keep driving until they’ve gone.
Remember, anyone can be a target and carjacking incidents occur both during the day and at night. The College Station Police also recommends people to be alert at ATMs and if another car bumps yours, to keep doors and windows closed until police arrive. Washington, D.C. authorities note a car is replaceable, you are not. If a carjacker threatens you with a gun or other weapon, give up the car.
Carjacking is a very serious crime and while it is impossible to avoid in some cases, being prepared with information and strategies can help keep you safer.