You’re stuck at a stoplight, and suddenly there’s a tap on the window, accompanied by a hooded man and a pistol pointed at your melon. As he screams at you to get out of the car, it becomes apparent that he’s not alone, and that your chances of escape are dwindling by the second. Face-down on the asphalt with the muzzle of a gun buried in the nape of your neck you quickly become wallet-less, phone-less, and car-less in a matter of seconds. Congratulations, you’ve just survived a carjacking.
According to The FBI’s latest Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, which contains data from January to June of 2015, there have been overall declines in the number of property crimes. Unfortunately for you, there was also an overall increase in “the number of violent crimes reported by law enforcement when compared to figures from the same time in 2014.”
While many of these incidents may not have been direct results of a carjackings, perusing the FBI’s database of reports proves that this kind of theft is still a prominent problem in America. Experts claim that part of the reason why carjacking rings remain such a prominent issue is because cars have gotten too good at protecting themselves, causing crooks to take vehicles while they’re running. This is a full-blown fight or flight kind of situation, and while we don’t condone violence, we also recognize that it is up to the driver to protect themselves as they see fit.
A while back, the U.S. Department of State released a report on ways to avoid getting carjacked, reiterating the fact that many people forget that almost all modern cars have an emergency help button — so don’t hesitate to mash that little bastard if things start looking dicey. But having a plan in place is also half the battle, so in the interest of public safety, here are a few tips designed to keep you and your car safe and secure.
The most likely places for a carjacking are:
- High-crime inner-city areas
- Lesser traveled roads (rural areas)
- Intersections where you must stop
- Isolated areas in parking lots
- Residential driveways and gates
Learn to avoid these areas and situations if possible, and when in traffic, look around for possible avenues of escape. Always be sure to keep a healthy amount of distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you, as it allows you to maneuver out of danger when the guys ahead of you suddenly stop and hop out with bats. A good rule of thumb here is always be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you, as this guarantees that your car can whip by and avoid reverse entirely. As for when stopped, use your mirrors and surround cameras to remain self aware, and put down the damn cell phone, because nothing says “distracted” quite like someone Snapchatting at a red light.
Common attack plans and ruses:
- The Bump: The attacker bumps the victim’s vehicle from behind and when the driver gets out to assess the damage their car gets swiped.
- The Good Samaritan: The attacker(s) stage what appears to be an accident, sometimes simulating an injury. By the time the victim gets out to assist, it’s already too late.
- The Mechanical Issue Ruse: The vehicle behind the victim flashes its lights or the attacker waves to get the victim’s attention, indicating that there is a problem with the victim’s car. When the driver pulls over to inspect the unforeseen issue the vehicle gets nabbed.
- The Trap: Carjackers follow the victim, and after pulling into their driveway to wait for the gate/garage door to open, the attacker pulls up behind, blocking them in. This could potentially be the most dangerous scenario, as it puts you, your car, and your entire household at risk.
Calling and reporting the location of an accident is another angle that could protect you, so always remember that you can speed up and phone it in so that the authorities may figure it out. If someone tries to alert you about a problem with your vehicle, pull over only when you reach a safe public place, or motion for the other car to follow you to a police station if one is nearby.
3. Play it cool or bust some skulls?
In most carjacking situations, the attackers are only interested in your vehicle and wallet, so try to stay calm until the perpetrators leave. Also, be sure not to stare at the attacker(s), as this means you are looking to ID them, giving them all the more reason to beat you. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of State does encourage retaliation at times, and says that while non-resistive/non-confrontational behavior is always encouraged,” being resistive and confrontational is sometimes necessary.”
How you react should be based on these factors:
- Type of attack (violent or passive)
- Environment (isolated or public)
- Mental state of attacker (reasonable or aggravated)
- Number of attackers
- Weapons Present (yours as well as theirs)
- Whether children are present
In the non-confrontational situation, you should:
- Give up the vehicle freely
- Follow the attacker’s directions
- Make no quick or sudden movements that the attacker could construe as a counter attack
- Always keep your hands in plain view and tell the attacker of every move you’ll make in advance
- Make the attacker aware if children are present
In a resistive/confrontational response, you would either make a decision to escape, or mash the alarm and attack the carjacker(s) with whatever weapon you have on hand. But before doing so, always consider:
- The mental state of the attacker
- Possible avenues of escape
- The number of assailants (there’s typically more than one)
- Weapons (carjacking situations don’t always involve guns, just be sure to watch for signs of a holstered firearm)
4. Get some gadgets
Keeping yourself and the occupants within your car safe should always be priority No. 1. Which leads us to an interesting market in the automotive realm, as many car security systems are now just as as advanced as the vehicle itself. Fortunately, for many of us not opting to carry a gun doesn’t mean that we have to relinquish all weapons choices as well. Pepper spray remains effective, as do tasers and hidden cameras that come on when you hit the alarm, thus making the identification process that much easier.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- LoJack (hidden tracking device shows-up in police computers when the vehicle is stolen)
- Viper LCD 2-Way Security System (drivers can set the alarm off and immobilize the car, making it virtually impossible to steal and super annoying at the same time)
- SpyTec G1WH 1080P HD Car Dash Camera (helps identify attackers and can be easily hidden)
- PS Products Expandable Baton (completely collapsible, intimidating as hell, super strong, and comes equipped with its own sheath for less than $25 at Walmart)
- Sabre 3-IN-1 Key Case Pepper Spray (police strength for under $12, with an extended four-year shelf life, and longer bursts at 10-foot range)
5. Move swiftly afterward
Let’s say you survived the carjacking but now are without cell phone, wallet, shoes, or a sense of dignity. But people do strange things when they are in shock, and after even an attempted attack, some people don’t focus on safety. So always get to a public place if phoning for help can’t be made right away. While you wait for the fuzz, try to recall only the details that you are 100% certain about, because if you aren’t sure, guessing won’t help investigators.
When reporting the crime:
- Describe the event paying close attention to who, what, when where, and how
- Describe the attacker(s) as best you can (try to recall height, weight, scars, tattoos, hair and eye color, facial hair, build, and complexion)
- Describe the attacker’s vehicle, license plate number, color, make, model, and year, as well as any marks like scratches, dents, damage, or personalization