8 carjackings a day in Chicago; aldermen hold hearing on the ‘epidemic’
by BRIAN NADIG
A lengthy City Council public safety hearing on Jan. 22 focused on the reported carjacking “epidemic” that law enforcement officials testified is being fueled in part by offenders seeking to promote their crimes on social media.
State Police Colonel David Byrd said that the assailants are on Facebook Live boasting about how police cars are pursuing them. “There is that social media aspect to this as well since they are so young,” he said. “It’s a big game to them.”
In some instances the offenders may be simulating the “Grand Theft Auto” video game, said Chicago police chief Brendan Deenihan.
“Right now the spike is so high it seems like everyone is doing it,” Deenihan said in response to a question if gangs are behind a lot of the carjackings.
Most of the offenders are believed to be between to ages of 15 and 20, with about 40 percent of them under the age of 18, according to police. “They feel it is easy,” Deenihan said, explaining that carjacking has become “a copycat crime” and that “they just move on to to the next car.”
“We are seeing a huge uptick on the Northwest Side,” Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) said, adding that three carjacking-related offenses occurred in his ward on Jan. 21.
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said that the city is experiencing an average of eight carjackings a day so far in 2021 compared to 2 ½ a day last year.
“There has to be consequences. If there are no consequences, we aren’t going to get anywhere,” Sposato said, calling for stronger sentences for offenders. “I think there should be zero tolerance.”
Alderman Samantha Nugent (39th) said that there have been several carjackings in her ward and the victims are experiencing PTSD. “They’re suffering. … They don’t want to use the garage and go to the alley,” she said.
“I don’t like the the fact that our hands are tied on a lot of this,” Nugent said, referring to difficulties in catching the suspects and prosecuting some of those who are caught. “Maybe we need (cameras with license plate readers) all over the place if we aren’t chasing.”
Deenihan said that for safety reasons officers have been instructed to not participate in high-speed chases of carjacking suspects.
Deenihan added that the department will be sending detectives directly to the scene of carjackings as soon as they are reported in order to facilitate investigations and that in most instances the stolen cars are being recovered, as the offenders are abandoning the vehicle, often after an eight-hour “joyride.”
It was reported that the department has launched a pilot program in one district in which license plate reader cameras will immediately notify the district if the plate of a carjacked vehicle is detected. It also was reported that most of the expressways in the city lack LPR camera technology but that efforts are being made to get more installed.
In addition, police said that recovered vehicles are taken to a city pound on the South Side and searched for evidence before the owners can retrieve them. The department acknowledged that some owners have had difficulties getting to the city pound since it is not centrally located.