CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago has surpassed 1,000 carjackings so far this year, on the heels of more than 1,400 carjackings in 2020, which had been the highest yearly total in nearly two decades.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina sat down on Friday with a Chicago Police sergeant leading part of the carjacking task force. It’s an interview you’ll see only on 2.

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What is the task force doing? What are they up against? And what’s it going to take to put an end to this?

Molina asked those questions and more to those tasked with fighting Chicago’s carjacking crisis, putting the pieces together, going after the offenders, and often times connecting one crime to another, one offender to another.

What so many want to know: is it enough?

Carjacking after carjacking. CBS 2 has tracked them in every Chicago neighborhood, at all hours of the day. The victims come from all ages and backgrounds.

“The guy came up behind me and turned me around, put a gun to my chest, and said, ‘I’ll kill you,” one victim told CBS 2.

Carjackers in Chicago are often teenagers.

“I get it that they’re young, but they’re also bold enough to put a gun against my head,” a woman named Mar told us earlier this month after she was carjacked in broad daylight in Bucktown.

At least 1,013 carjackings have been reported in Chicago as of Thursday.

Chicago Police Sgt. Peter Amelio is on the department’s vehicular hijacking task force, fighting the trend.

“The biggest challenge that we have is these offenders, they don’t stop,” he said.

In 19 years on the force, he has a background in gangs and investigations, and is now leading eight officers on one of the four new teams formed in January specifically dedicated to rising carjackings.

“Some of them are really just doing it for fun,” he said.

When it comes to the crime, Amelio said there are three answers to the why question.

“They compare it to playing Grand Theft Auto,” he said.

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Amelio said some carjackers take vehicles to use in other crimes.

Others?

“We’ve had people admit to us they sold a vehicle for $4,500,” he said.

We know teens are behind many of the carjackings in Chicago. Its something we’ve been working to put a number on, but because they’re underage, we’ve had to file public records requests to get the data.

Amelio said the average age they see for carjackers is between 14 and 25.

“We’ve had them as young as 11,” he said.

Often, they are repeat offenders or, he says, ultimately connected to other crimes.

“There are kids that we haven’t seen come back, but then there are kids with long rap sheets,” he said.

Molina: “What do you say to people who are scared, who are seeing this spike and feel they CPD isn’t doing enough?”

Amelio: “I would tell those people that CPD definitely cares. We have officers and detectives here whose friends and family have been carjacked.”

While Amelio said he doesn’t get discouraged fighting the crime, he acknowledged the numbers are rough; plain and simple.

The task force is in place for a reason, with more carjackings reported in Chicago in 2020 and 2021 than the previous four years combined.

month

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

January

26

51

75

86

49

74

216

February

11

36

56

51

30

67

125

March

29

41

58

60

31

57

82

April

23

34

64

49

45

64

99

May

19

47

63

49

49

96

108

June

17

39

74

58

47

114

130

July

37

54

75

72

53

149

155

August (through 08-12)

12

25

26

21

16

77

72

Total

174

327

491

446

320

698

987

Sot what’s it going to take to curb the trend?

“Well, we’ve only been doing this since January. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take the offenders learning there are consequences for their actions,” Amelio said.

The task force doesn’t work alone. They’re working closely with the Cook County Sheriff, Illinois State Police, U.S. Homeland Security, and departments throughout the suburbs and neighboring states.

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Asked why so many carjackers are so young, Amelio said he can only speculate when it comes to age, but he also said they work closely with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, and provide all the information they can about these cases.

Tara Molina