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Carjacking:a crime of opportunity

Auto theft is a crime that costs Virginians millions of dollars each year. The HEAT program works to educate citizens on how to prevent auto theft by putting obstacles between themselves and their vehicles.

But what would you do if a thief attempted to rob your vehicle while you were in it? Although the crime of carjacking is less common, it does occur. Which is why it is important to know what carjacking is, how to identify it, ways to avoid becoming a victim and most importantly, what to do if you become a victim of carjacking.

What is carjacking?

Carjacking occurs when someone uses force or intimidation to steal a vehicle from someone else. This often-violent crime is not typically premeditated, but rather a crime of opportunity. Carjacking can happen anywhere from populated cities to desolate areas or traffic stops, as well as in common areas such as shopping centers, parking lots, and gas stations.

What does carjacking look like?

Carjackers have developed schemes to create a distraction, allowing them to seize a vehicle. The “bump-and-rob” begins when a carjacker lightly bumps into your car from behind to cause you to pull over. When you get out of your car to discuss the damage, the thief then attempts to steal your vehicle. Another scheme occurs when another driver flashes their lights to signal to you that there is some sort of issue with your vehicle, causing you to pull over and exit the vehicle and creating an opportunity to seize your car. Although these schemes occur, the quickest and easiest target for carjacker is a vehicle owner who is already distracted.

How can you prevent becoming a victim of carjacking?

There are many precautions you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of carjacking. Parking in well-lit areas, approaching your vehicle with keys in hand, checking the back seat before opening your doors and being cautious of strangers surrounding your vehicle can all help reduce your chance of becoming a victim. It can be easy to get distracted while commuting to and from your vehicle, but staying alert and being aware of your surroundings is the simplest way to deter carjackers from targeting you.

What can you do if you are a victim of carjacking?

Your safety is imperative and vehicles can always be replaced. Keep your phone charged and always dial 911 in an emergency. Never resist someone who tries to take your vehicle by force. If a criminal is attempting to take your car from you with force or a weapon, give up your car. If the criminal directs you to drive the car, try to drive to a busy intersection where the possibility of you getting help is more likely. Take note of any distinguishing characteristics that may help create a police report later.