Anyone who follows their local news will invariably come across stories of carjacking. The US Department of Justice reported an annual rate of 38,000 carjackings in the US for the period 1992 – 2003. Unfortunately, the FBI Uniform Crime Reports classify carjacking as “motor vehicle theft,” and do not provide a specific category for this crime. One thing is certain; carjackings do occur with enough frequency for us to be concerned about them as a potential threat. In some cases, the theft of the vehicle may be followed by more serious crimes, including rape and murder.
As responsible citizens who take measures to insure our own personal safety, what can we do to avoid becoming victims of carjacking? First and foremost is situational awareness. Except while sleeping, we should strive to maintain ourselves in “condition Yellow,” which is a state of relaxed awareness of everything and everyone in our vicinity. By maintaining this awareness, we have the opportunity to see trouble coming before it is upon us. A warning of but a fraction of a second is often enough to allow one to take life-saving action. It also helps to have a plan. If you have repeatedly run through a scenario in your mind, it will become second nature to take the proper action if the need arises.
In order to prevent crime, we must first understand it. What are the reasons for carjacking? I do not claim to know all of them, but here are a few obvious ones:
- It is easier to rob a driver of his vehicle than to defeat a security system and steal an unattended vehicle.
- The perpetrator needs a vehicle to escape from a crime scene.
- The perpetrator wants to steal an expensive vehicle to resell it later.
- The perpetrator wants to rob, rape, or murder the driver or a passenger in the vehicle.
Carjacking may occur when you are driving, entering, or leaving your vehicle. Here are a few common-sense tips to remember.
- Keep doors locked and windows rolled up.
- Try to avoid known high-crime areas, especially at night.
- Check all mirrors frequently and remain alert.
- Do not use your cell phone while driving. Do not text while driving.
- Make sure that you have at least a half tank of gas at all times.
- Do not drive distracted. If you need to discipline a child, pull over, stop, and take care of business in a well lighted and/or populated area.
- Keep valuables out of sight, not on the seat beside you.
- While getting gas or whenever you get out of your vehicle, shut off the engine, lock the doors, and take the keys with you. NEVER get out and leave your car running.
- If you see a stranger with a disabled car on the side of the road, do not stop. Use your cell phone to notify the authorities.
- If bumped in the rear by another car in traffic, do not leave your vehicle. Check out your mirrors and check out the occupants of the other car. Drive slowly to a populated area. If you cannot leave the scene, use your cell phone to call the police to report an accident. Carjackers have been known to tap into the target vehicle. When the driver gets out to inspect the damage, a passenger in the jacker vehicle jumps into your car and drives off.
- Always plan an escape route to use if a stranger rapidly approaches your car. When in a line at a drive-in bank, for example, leave space in front of you so that you may escape the line.
When entering or leaving your vehicle
- Note that shopping mall parking lots and city parking garages are prime locations for carjackers. Be alert at all times.
- Always try to park in a well lighted area.
- When returning to your parked car, have your keys in non-firing hand. Check under the car and in the back seat before entering. At night, use your flashlight. You DO carry a flashlight, don’t you?
- Before leaving your vehicle, scan the area for any suspicious persons who may be lurking about. If something does not seem right, park elsewhere.
- Be suspicious of anyone handing out handbills or asking for directions. If there are strangers about, enter your car quickly, lock the doors and drive off.
- If you return to your car and notice a van parked on your drivers’ side, enter from the passenger side.
- If you see a car parked next to your vehicle with a person just sitting in it, do not enter your vehicle right away. It may be wise to watch from a distance or go back to the mall or workplace and obtain an escort.
Tips for Concealed Carriers
The items above are good advice for anyone, whether they carry or not. If you do carry, you are more prepared to face trouble than most, but only if you remain alert and have a plan.
While driving, your sidearm should be holstered and on your person. Do not put your pistol on the seat beside you or keep it in the glove compartment. Your gun can slide off the seat or shift around in the glove box. When you leave your vehicle, take your gun with you. If your car is stolen while unattended, you don’t want to give the thief a bonus of your carry piece. As far as carrying while driving is concerned, the hip or IWB holster may not be the best choice. Although it is possible to draw from a holster behind the hip on the strong side while seated, a crossdraw or shoulder rig works better and allows easier access to your sidearm. If you spend lots of time behind the wheel, it may be advisable to keep a crossdraw rig in the car and transfer your pistol to it when you enter. After parking, you can switch back to your hip or IWB rig. Whatever you choose to do, practice drawing and engaging a threat when seated in your car.
This may seem paranoid to some, but I offer this piece of advice as simple preparedness. As a disclaimer, always use your best judgement and understand what is comfortable for you; all while abiding by the 4 rules of gun safety as well as local, state and federal laws. When engaging a threat, the fastest draw is to have your gun in your hand before the trouble starts. If you are stopped in traffic and see a suspicious person approaching you on foot in your rear view mirror, consider drawing your piece and keeping it out of sight until you know the intentions of the stranger. You must use your judgment here. If the approaching stranger has his hand or hands hidden, this is a very good cause for suspicion. If you can see a weapon, you are faced with an imminent threat. When entering a parking garage after dark, you can have your gun in hand, covered by a newspaper. If you carry a short-barrel revolver, you can fire through your coat pocket if necessary. Trouble often comes quickly and without warning. It is best to be prepared if you are confronted. Note that I am not advising anyone to brandish his firearm at the slightest hint of danger. When in a high-risk environment, keep your firearm concealed, but in your hand ready for instant use if a threat materializes.
Your goal is to prevent the carjacker from taking you prisoner. I do not presume to tell anyone how to act, but in my personal opinion, it is always better to resist immediately and violently than to comply with a criminal. If you are abducted and removed from the original crime scene, you are in real trouble. Others may differ with me on this. I will respect their opinion but will continue to practice what works for me personally.
One final point; if you are ever forced to discharge your firearm inside a car, prepare to be deafened and somewhat disoriented. If there is time to do so, lower an offside window by a couple of inches if you believe you may have to fire. This will reduce the effect of the muzzle blast. If there are others in the car with you, shout a warning so that they may cover their ears. Anyone who has ever discharged a firearm in a vehicle or other confined space knows what I am talking about. Also, prepare to be showered with fragments of safety glass if you shoot through a window.
Carjacking is a serious crime. This article cannot tell you everything you need to know, but should serve as a starting point from which you can begin to prepare yourself. By legally carrying concealed firearms, we reduce our chances of being victimized. Our concealed firearms cannot help us unless we remain constantly alert, practice our skills regularly, and plan how we will deal with potential threats. Stay safe.