CHICAGO (CBS) — Police Supt. David Brown said Thursday there had been 144 vehicular hijackings in Chicago in the first 21 days of January – placing the city on track to record 2,000 carjackings this year if the trend continues.

“The spike in vehicular hijackings are a regional and national issue that both urban and suburban cities are experiencing across the country,” Brown said. “Motives include joyriding and to facilitate anonymity while committing other crimes that include robbery and shootings.”

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Brown said while Chicago Police have made several arrests in carjacking cases, many of the offenders are working in crews of sometimes two, three, or four people. This means not only arresting the person who stole the car, but the getaway driver any anyone else involved.

Police officials at a news conference late Thursday also touched on the fact that these crews are either coming from the suburbs or are working their way to the suburbs to commit more crimes.

That provides an extra challenge, which is requiring Chicago Police to work with several area departments around the nation.

Brown on Thursday announced a comprehensive approach the Chicago Police Department will undertake to fight the carjacking epidemic, including an expanded Vehicular Hijacking Task Force, and collaboration with cities across the region.

To help solve these cases, Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said they are also adding staffing to the detective division, and they are preparing beat cops to respond to carjacking calls.

The biggest concern police have is how young some of the offenders are. As recently as Friday. Jan. 15, a 12-year old pointed a gun at woman and stole her car, Deenihan said.

“I just think all of those things, along with the anxiety around what we are now in – the worst economy since the Great Recession or the Great Depression and its impact on the families; school’s being out, and its impact on some kids, not all – and I think that’s yet to be written, the whole impact of the pandemic,” Brown said.

But Supt. Brown said he does not just want to blame young people for the crimes.

Many of the assailants are also repeat offenders, police said. They have committed carjackings time and time again and know what they’re doing, hence why they get in and out so quickly, police said.

An interactive map at this link shows the change in the number of carjackings in Chicago neighborhoods between 2019 and 2020.

Carjackers Keep Striking Throughout The City And Beyond
Late Thursday night upon going on the air with the CBS 2 News at 10 p.m., we received word of yet another carjacking – this time in Kenwood, at 46th Street and Ellis Avenue.

Indeed, it is an epidemic.

At 6:37 p.m. Thursday, a carjacking was also reported in the 400 block of North Cicero Avenue in the South Austin neighborhood. A 55-year-old man was sitting in his car at a red light when two men came up, and one of them showed a short metal pipe as he came to the driver’s side door.

The other assailant approached from the passenger side door and took out a gun, police said. They ordered the driver out of the car and he complied, and then the man with the pipe hit him several times, police said.

The assailants drove off in the victim’s black Acura PDX, while the driver was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where his condition was stabilized.

On Thursday alone, carjackings were also reported in Bronzeville, Avondale, and the Goose Island area.

At noon Thursday, a woman was in the parking lot of a business in the 900 block of West Weed Street, near Fremont Street, when two men came up with a gun, police said.

The suspects took the woman’s personal items and the keys to her black Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle and fled, police said.

“They took her and put her against the wall,” the dispatcher was heard saying. “They pulled up on her, robbed her of her purse.”

A carjacking was also reported at 6:10 a.m. in the 3100 block of North Kimball Avenue.

A 46-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman were in a 2019 Toyota Corolla in an alley before going to work when a Honda CR-V with a woman behind the wheel pulled up, police said.

Two armed men got out of the Honda CR-V and approached on each side of the Toyota, demanding that the victims get out and hand over their personal property, police said.

The victims complied and the suspects drove off in their car, with the CR-V following.

Earlier Thursday, a man was carjacked at a gas station near 31st Street and Michigan Avenue. According to police, a 26-year-old driver of a Mercedes was at the service window of a gas station when two people in a black vehicle stopped near him around 2 a.m.

A man got out of the passenger seat, pointed a gun at the victim, and demanded his keys and cellphone. Police said the victim complied and the offender fled in the Mercedes. The second offender followed in the original vehicle the carjackers arrived in.

As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, one of the latest attempted carjacking calls also came from the Streeterville neighborhood. An employee at the Jersey Mike’s Subs at 203 E. Ohio St. said the victim ran in frantically asking them to call 911.

“You could tell he was afraid. He was all teary-eyed and everything,” the employee said. “Some guys just walked up with guns told him basically, ‘Hand the truck over.’”

Video supplied to CBS 2 also showed a carjacking in progress outside a woman’s apartment as she called 911.

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Surveillance video from earlier this month shows a man being placed into a head lock and forced to the ground as he’s robbed. A small child is in the car as this happens.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Chicago Police recovered a stolen and now-damaged red Subaru on the Northwest Side.

Also among the incidents police were investigating Thursday was an elaborate crime spree that hit multiple corners of the city and suburbs, and in which one crew of carjackers are believed to be responsible.

As CBS 2’s Meredith Barack reported, cameras captured the scene outside the Willis Tower at South Wacker Drive and Adams Street at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Carjackers pulled up to an idling sport-utility vehicle, and one of the carjackers got out, pulled a gun, and forced the driver of the SUV out of the front seat.

A 27-year old man walking to work Wednesday on Wacker Drive near Van Buren Street said he was robbed – forced to get on the ground and give up his belongings. He said the same people responsible for the carjacking near Willis Tower also got him.

“The car that got me was, it was the Dodge Journey – that navy blue one that pulled up on the Mitsubishi,” the victim told De Mar. “Yeah, that was definitely the same guy, wearing the same exact clothes, the same hat. He had the black mask on.”

The same crew is suspected in the robbery of a Dunkin’ Donuts near 56th Street and Harlem Avenue in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood.

They are also linked to robberies in the 6100 block of South Harlem Avenue Summit at 3:37 a.m. Saturday, the 12800 block of South Harlem Avenue in Palos Heights at 4:28 a.m. Tuesday, and the 5500 block of West 159th Street in Oak Forest at 4:42 a.m. Tuesday.

In a community alert, police also mentioned a possible like to a carjacking in the 9800 block of South Halsted Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood, and shootings in the Ogden (10th) and Harrison (11th) police districts o the city’s West Side.

“Trying to find these guys is priority for me, and I hope that they do,” the man who was robbed said.

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These are among several carjackings already committed this month.

They represent a frustrating statistic for victims like the Ariolas, who were the victims of an attempted carjacking in Bucktown in late November.

David Ariola was shot during the carjacking.

“They’ve demonstrated, in my case, that they wanted to kill me – and the only thing they got out of our incident is a worthless cell phone,” he said.

The family’s sense of security is gone.

“I don’t want to drive after dark. I don’t want to drive during the day,” said David’s wife, Tina Ariola. “I mean, these people are getting ripped out of their cars during the day. It’s indiscriminate.”

The Ariolas said their experience has not only made them question if they want to stay in Chicago, but what city leadership is doing to prevent repeat offenders from terrorizing residents again and again.

“It’s an epidemic. It’s epidemic proportions where people don’t feel safe. Leadership doesn’t seem to be addressing it at all, so I think that’s the real problem,” David Ariola said. “If they wanted to flood this area, and make sure this doesn’t happen as frequently as it has, and send a message that you can’t just come here and do this, I think that would be very impactful.”

No arrests have been made in the Ariolas’ case, nor in many others.

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CBS 2’s Meredith Barack and Charlie De Mar contributed to this report.

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