Carjacking Is Up 500% in the U.S. — Are You at Risk?

Across the U.S., auto theft increased by more than 16% in 2021 and continued to increase in 2022. Carjacking, too, saw spikes in many U.S. states, especially in the cities, and it is now spreading into the suburbs. Law enforcement agencies report that vehicle thefts are up 88 percent in Washington and 31 percent in New Jersey. Other states are not far behind. Carjacking  is different from car theft and can be terrifying if not deadly. While car theft takes place when the owner of the vehicle is not present, carjacking involves the use of fear or force to seize control of a vehicle – often at gunpoint. Here’s everything you need to know about carjacking, where it’s happening and how to stay safe.

Which 5 Cities Are Carjackings Most Common in?

While carjacking is becoming more common place in Georgia and Maryland as well as other parts of the country, here are the cities with the most number of carjacking incidents in the past year:

City

Number of Carjackings

Increase in the Past Year

Washington D.C

426

Up 200%

Chicago

1,900

Up 207%

New York City

500

Up 286%

Philadelphia

800

Up 238%

New Orleans

281

Up 159%

The NICB said nationally car thefts increased 16.5% in the past year and 30% since 2017. Here are some states that saw the deepest increases in the past year:

State

Increase in Car Thefts in the Past Year

Colorado

79% 

Wisconsin

74% 

Vermont

64% 

New York

59% 

Washington D.C.

52%

*Full-size trucks from Ford and Chevy and the Honda Accord and Civic are the most stolen cars in the country.

There have been spikes in carjacking in many U.S. states, especially in the cities, and it is now spreading into the suburbs.

Does Car Insurance Cover Carjacking?

If you have comprehensive car coverage on your car insurance policy, you will be covered if you are carjacked. Only comprehensive coverage will cover a claim for a stolen or carjacked vehicle. Your liability insurance only covers other drivers you may be guilty of colliding with.

Who Is the Target of Carjacking?

Rideshare drivers are often victims of carjacking. Not only are they called to pick up then robbed, these drivers idle often, as they look at their phones for the next ride. While distracted, carjackers take possession of the car by force. Delivery workers, who stop in unfamiliar neighborhoods, are getting carjacked too. However, any car owner is a target for carjacking, which is not just happening in dark, unlit alleys. It’s happening in public, in broad daylight, in the driveway of people’s homes.

Why Is Carjacking on the Rise?

The reason carjackings are on the rise more than regular auto thefts is because push-button ignitions have made it harder to steal cars without getting the key. Here are the top three reasons we’re seeing more carjackings than ever:

Young People Looking for an Adventure

A surprising finding is that many young people, 14-year-olds, 12-year-olds, even 11-year-olds are taking part in carjacking stunts, some for fun joyriding then dumping the car while others do it to garner attention on social media. Truly shocking is that many of carjackers are armed and the theft often ends in murder.

These children are more likely to live in homes with little internet access and low school attendance.

Catalytic Converter Theft

The value of the precious metals inside catalytic converters is often the cause of car theft and carjacking. Some carjackers take stolen vehicles directly to chop shops to be sold for parts. Criminals also steal cars at gunpoint and then use the vehicles for robberies and drive-by shootings.

Unaffordable Car Prices

Prices of used cars are rising as much as new cars so people are resorting to theft. Along with car insurance, car prices and the prices of parts and labor have increased exponentially since the beginning of 2022, much of it due to logistics issues during the COVID lockdowns. Also tire prices went up 20% from 2020 to 2021, but it cost manufacturers 24% more to make tires so in 2022, all Americans saw prices on tires go up. It makes sense then that theft of cars for parts and tires would be on the rise as well.

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Are Carjackers Getting Caught?

Arrest rates are low — fewer than one in eight carjackings in Chicago resulted in arrest in 2020, according to a study by the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab.  Young people are getting caught because they post what they do on social media, so it may be that it only seems that more young people are guilty of carjacking than in the past. The young people who are arrested on carjacking charges often do not serve jail time because they have no prior records. And when they do, it’s a short stay in county jail.

Another reason arrest rates are low is because mask wearing has become normalized, so it’s often impossible to tell who the criminals are in surveillance videos and phone videos taken by witnesses.

Where Does Carjacking Take Place?

Carjacking can take place anywhere. These are the most common places it’s been reported to have happened:

  • ATMs
  • Gas stations
  • Car washes
  • Garages
  • Parking lots of shopping malls, grocery stores
  • Intersections
  • Highway exit and entry ramps
  • Residential driveways

Carjacking is happening in public, in broad daylight, in the driveway of people’s homes.

What To Do if You Get Carjacked

Fighting back can end in a tragedy. Avoid getting into a physical altercation with the carjacker and do the following instead:

  • If the carjacker threatens you, don’t argue. Give up the car.
  • Get away as quickly as possible.
  • Pay attention to what the carjacker looks like — sex, race, age, hair and eye color, clothes, etc.
  • Call 911 and report the crime.
  • Contact your insurance company so your comprehensive coverage can pay you for your loss.

Carjacking Prevention Tips

  • Keep your doors locked and windows rolled up
  • In summer, keep windows rolled up at least part-way)
  • Drive in the center lane to avoid potential carjackers who won’t be able to approach the car.
  • Avoid driving alone, especially at night.
  • When you are coming to a stop, leave enough room to maneuver around other cars so you can get away quickly.
  • Don’t stop to assist a stranger whose car has broken down (call police for help).
  • Park in well-lighted areas, near sidewalks or walkways.
  • Don’t park near dumpsters, large vans or trucks, etc. that obstruct you from seeing a carjacker lurking around.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your car, even if the car is locked. Put them in the trunk or glove compartment.
  • When possible, park in a garage with an attendant. Leave only the ignition key, with no identification.
  • Look around before you get out of your car and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Always trust your instincts. If the situation doesn’t feel right, get away.
  • Install an immobilizing device in case you are carjacked.
  • Install a tracking device so police can help find your car if it gets stolen.

Only comprehensive coverage will cover a claim for a stolen or carjacked vehicle.

Carjacking FAQs

Does carjacking only happen in cities?

Carjacking also happens in suburbs, rural areas, and small towns.

When do most carjackings take place?

A large number of carjacking cases occur late at night but they also happen in broad daylight.

Does carjacking happen mostly to women?

Carjackers discriminate, so the victim’s sex, race, or age is usually not a factor. Many are armed so the size of the victim doesn’t matter either.

Key Takeaways

  • Carjacking can happen to anyone, anytime but most often happens late at night.
  • Prevent carjacking by keeping the carjacker out of your car and by being very diligent about your surroundings.
  • If you’re the victim of carjacking or car theft, file a comprehensive car insurance claim to recoup your losses.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how big and strong, carjacking is happening to people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Make sure you have car insurance, especially comprehensive coverage, at the cheapest rate by seeing what prices top insurers are offering you to switch. Enter your zip code below and answer a few questions to see if you can save a bunch of money! The service is free and you’re not obligated to buy or even put down a credit card.

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