Carjackings spike higher than 2020 levels in cities across country: ‘Perfect storm’

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Carjacking crimes erupted in cities across the country in 2020 as society was upended by coronavirus lockdowns and calls to defund the police echoed across the nation. Two years later, some cities are seeing even more drastic surges in the crimes. 

“Police departments are absolutely decimated right now. They don’t have the resources or the manpower. And they’re essentially doing triage as it is with the increase in homicides and shootings. You can bind sort of all these things together and you have this really perfect storm,” Heritage Foundation legal fellow Amy Swearer told Fox News Digital, who noted progressive prosecutors in some cities are contributing to this “perfect storm.” 

Carjackings in cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore have skyrocketed in recent years, with all the cities continuing to see an upward trend in the crimes this year. 

“What’s happening here is not normal and I don’t want anyone for any minute to begin to normalize this,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw warned in January of this year. 

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A Philadelphia Lyft driver with a license to carry a firearm shot two suspects who carjacked him in January 2022, authorities said.

A Philadelphia Lyft driver with a license to carry a firearm shot two suspects who carjacked him in January 2022, authorities said. (FOX29 Philadelphia WTXF)

Philadelphia kicked off the year by notching 91 carjackings by mid-January, putting it on track to outpace the 757 carjackings the city recorded in 2021 – which was already an 85% increase compared to the number of carjackings in 2020. 

Nine months into the year, the Philadelphia Police Department reports there have been 946 carjackings and attempts as of Sept. 7.

Earlier this month, three teenagers in the city were accused of carjacking an 80-year-old man at gunpoint in broad daylight. Last month, a man was unloading his groceries when he was approached by an armed carjacker – but the victim managed to turn the tables on the suspect and shoot him with his own gun. 

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Over the past several years, Philadelphia has seen a disturbing spike in the number of violent crime incidents including shootings, homicides, and carjackings. Unfortunately, these incidents have occurred throughout the country, and their occurrence is not unique to Philadelphia,” a Philadelphia police spokesperson told Fox News Digital when approached for comment on how carjackings have increased in the city. 

A disturbing trend of youths – rather than adults – carrying out the crimes has also left local leaders in cities disturbed. Just last month in Detroit, an 11-year-old was arrested for allegedly working with other youths to carry out carjackings. In Philadelphia earlier this year, a 12-year-old boy and two teenagers were arrested for allegedly beating an elderly man to death in 2021 during a carjacking. In Chicago, another 11-year-old boy was arrested in July for an attempted armed carjacking. 

Chicago police attempted to pull over a carjacked vehicle in January and traded gunfire with the suspects, shooting one and taking two others into custody.

Chicago police attempted to pull over a carjacked vehicle in January and traded gunfire with the suspects, shooting one and taking two others into custody. (FOX32 Chicago WFLD)

“I don’t want to say it’s surprising, but it’s definitely concerning, it’s definitely alarming,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Outlaw said in March when five suspected carjackers between the ages of 13 and 17 were arrested. “We know that young people are also trigger pullers. We also know, as such, that our victims are also becoming younger, not just of carjackings but of violent crime in general.”

Carjacking rose precipitously in 2020 in some cities. Minneapolis notched a staggering 537% increase in carjackings when comparing data from November of 2019 to November of 2020. Chicago, meanwhile, reported a roughly 135% increase in all of 2020 compared to the year prior and Washington, D.C., reported similar figures at a 136% increase. 

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“I think what’s even more telling is it’s not just 2020 data for a lot of these cities, because a lot of crime spiked in a lot of places in 2020. What’s more telling is when you look at 2021 and now into 2022,” Swearer said, explaining that some cities have seen a downward trend in many crimes, though they are still higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

“When you look at Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, D.C., New Orleans – that’s another really, really big one – carjackings are astronomical even compared to like 2020 and 2021.”

Armed carjackings in Washington D.C. have increased by about 25% as of the start of September compared to the same time period in 2021. As of August, Baltimore carjackings are up nearly 50% this year compared to the same time period in 2021. Detroit reported similar numbers, with carjackings up about 40% as of August this year compared to 2021. 

The 32-year-old victim was sitting in his Honda Accord in January on Folsom Street in Philadelphia when an armed man approached the driver side door and pointed a gun at him.

The 32-year-old victim was sitting in his Honda Accord in January on Folsom Street in Philadelphia when an armed man approached the driver side door and pointed a gun at him. (FOX29 Philadelphia WTXF)

In New Orleans, the city is expected to surpass the record 10-year-high in carjackings it recorded last year – when the city logged a total of 210 carjackings. As of mid-September, New Orleans police have investigated 176 armed carjackings.

In Chicago, a study published last month found the city is on pace to record 1,960 carjackings in 2022, a roughly 6% increase from the 1,848 record set just last year. The number would represent an over sixfold increase from 2014, when the city recorded 303 carjackings, according to data compiled by Wirepoints.

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The Wirepoints analysis argued that a lack of consequences for committing crimes has helped spearhead the increase in the city.

“Chicago’s growing carjacking problem is a microcosm of what’s gone wrong in the city,” Wirepoints Senior Editor Matt Rosenberg wrote of the study. “Carjackings are more frequent, they are more weaponized, and there are fewer consequences than at almost any time in recent history.”

 Chicago police cars parked along Michigan avenue in downtown with people passing by early in the morning.

 Chicago police cars parked along Michigan avenue in downtown with people passing by early in the morning. (iStock)

Swearer made similar remarks, arguing that progressive prosecutors in cities with soft-on-crime approaches have compounded the crimes, combined with the crimes having a low rate of being solved by police. 

Swearer said people are “talking about a crime that has low clearance rates to begin with. And then you add rogue prosecutors, and then you add in the general decimation of those police forces that are already doing triage, it’s no wonder that they’re having a hard time cracking down on this.” Swearer noted that cities battling high crimes often have the same variables fanning the flames, but that crime is a nuanced and complicated matter with other factors contributing. 

The spikes in carjacking crimes have also prompted the FBI to step in and form task forces to curb the crimes including in cities such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and others, according to a press release from the agency earlier this month. 

“One of the crimes that has seen a spike recently is carjackings, especially as supply chain disruptions have made cars more valuable than ever. The FBI has formed carjacking task forces and working groups with law enforcement in several cities affected by spikes,” the FBI said in a press release on September 13. 

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The Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the force has rolled out various initiatives to combat the crimes, including working with local, state, and federal partners; “utilizing targeted patrols which include both uniformed and plain-clothed officers;” a Carjacking Task Force. The department is also calling on citizens to report any information they have on individuals involved in a crime and to always be aware of their surroundings. 

Politicians in cities such as Philadelphia, and in the suburbs outside of Chicago, have themselves fallen victim to carjackings. Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon was carjacked at gunpoint in 2021 in a park in Philadelphia. Democratic Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford was similarly carjacked in a Chicago suburb that same month. 

Chicago Police arrest carjacking suspect on Jan. 24, 2021.

Chicago Police arrest carjacking suspect on Jan. 24, 2021. (@Chicago_Police/Twitter)

Manhattan Institute fellow Charles Fain Lehmanwrote an essay late last year arguing that carjackings affecting politicians was “utterly predictable.” 

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“It was only a matter of time before the surge — part of a massive increase in certain serious crimes — affected lawmakers who have pushed to weaken, or even cripple, the criminal-justice system tasked with addressing it,” he wrote in December of last year. 

Lehman argued that in addition lawmakers’ support of criminal justice reforms that have weakened how criminals are prosecuted, the issue of lawlessness in some cities has been compounded by liberal district attorneys in cities such as Philadelphia who have not pursued charges against some suspected carjackers. 

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“There are consequences to refusing to use, or dismantling altogether, large parts of the criminal-justice system. Until lawmakers recognize this, the madness will continue,” he wrote.