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Crime has decreased in most parts of the country in such crimes as homicide, burglary and assault.

            However, there has been an alarming increase in carjacking.  Carjacking is the fastest growing and potentially the most dangerous of all the crimes against person and property.

            According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 49,000 completed and attempted carjackings occurred in the US each year.

            Examples of how dangerous and deadly a carjacking can be are illustrated in two recent cases.

            The first case occurred when a school teacher was carjacked, kidnapped and murdered.  She was murdered even though she did not resist her kidnapper and pleaded that she not be harmed.

            Ironically, she had a tape recorder with her at the time, taping the entire conversation with the carjacker, unfortunately to no avail.

            The second case was the criminal who carjacked and kidnapped two nuns.  He murdered and decapitated one of the nuns.

            In both cases the victims of these heinous crimes did not resist or threaten the criminal in anyway.


Reasons for Carjacking


The most frequent reasons are:

  1. Improved security devices on cars make it more difficult to steal a car, so carjacking becomes the easy alternative.
  2. To rapidly escape the scene of a crime.
  3. To steal an expensive or specific make of vehicle to sell in another country or for parts in a “chop shop.”
  4. The most serious and dangerous of all: to kidnap, rob, rape, or murder the occupants of the carjacked vehicle.


Most Frequent Victims of Carjacking


  1. The elderly.
  2. Females alone/with children.
  3. People preoccupied, not alert or aware of surroundings.
  4. People parked in isolated or darkened areas, dark streets, parking lots or driveways.


Tips to Prevent Carjacking – How to Protect Yourself While Parking or Entering Your Vehicle


  1. Park in a well lit area.
  2. When returning to your parked car, be aware of the surroundings.  Look into the backseat before opening the car door.  As you approach the car, look for someone hiding underneath the vehicle.  At night, use a flashlight to illuminate under the car and the backseat.  Walk with purpose and be alert.  Approach your car with key in hand.  Be wary of people asking for directions, handing out fliers, etc.  Trust your instincts.  If someone makes you feel uneasy get in your car quickly.  Lock the doors and drive away.
  3. Install an anti-theft device that has an ignition shut off button or have a panic button alarm system that can be activated if you sense trouble.
  4. Always keep the car filled to at least half a tank of gas and sign up for a towing service.
  5. Know that parking lots in shopping areas and work places are the favorite areas for carjackers, followed by city streets, residential driveways and gas stations.


Tips to Prevent a Carjacking – How to Protect Yourself While Driving


  1. When driving it is important to appear confident and in control.  If you appear lost, weak or preoccupied you increase your chances of becoming a victim.
  2. Lock your car doors when driving and keep your windows up.  Get fresh air from the air conditioner or fan.  Many carjackings occur at red lights and stop signs.
  3. Avoid driving alone, if possible, especially at night.
  4. Do not leave pocketbooks or valuables on the seat which can be observed from outside.  Place these items on the floor and the pocketbook under the front seat.  The trunk is best.
  5. Carjacking occurs on weekends more frequently than on weekdays, so be especially alert on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  6. When you go to a gas station, turn off your ignition and lock your car when you go to pay the attendant.
  7. Do not stop if you see a stranger whose car is broken down on the side of the road.  Call for help via cell phone or gas station phone.
  8. On a highway, drive in the center lane.  This reduces your chance of becoming a “bump-and-rob” victim.


“Bump and Rob” Carjacking


            “Bump and Rob” is a method carjackers use to steal a car and sometimes kidnap the occupants.

            It works like this: a car, usually with a driver and at least one passenger, bumps the rear of your car in traffic.

            You stop; get out to check for damage and exchange information.  Then either the driver or one of the passengers (partners) jumps into your car and drives off.

            If you are bumped by another car, look around and check out the car in the rear view and side mirrors.  Observe the occupants.  If the occupants of the car that hit you look suspicious or make you feel uneasy, drive away to a populated area.  If possible, jot down the car’s license plate number and description (make and type).  Signal the other driver to follow you.  Do not pull over to the side of the road unless there are many people (witnesses) in the area.  Drive to the nearest police station, firehouse, patrol car or a busy, well-lit gas station or shopping area.  If you get out of your car to exchange information, assess damage, etc., take your keys (purse or wallet if you have one) and stay alert.

            Another method is where the carjacker drives in front of the desired car (victim) and slams on the brakes causing the second car (your car) to run into the front car causing a “fender bender.”  This move is usually done in slow or moderate traffic, is calculated and causes little or no damage.  You get out to assess the damage or injuries and exchange information.  At that time, a person in the front car or in another car that stops behind you, gets out of their car, gets into your car and drives away, while you are preoccupied exchanging information.  This scenario is usually perpetrated against a car occupied by one person.


What to Do If Carjacked


            If you are outside your car and approached by a carjacker who is not armed and demands your car, throw your keys past him as far as you can.  Scream for help or activate your personal safety device to get attention.  Then run from the area as fast as possible.

            If your car is equipped with an ignition cut-off switch, activate it while getting out of your vehicle.  Do so only if not being closely observed by the carjacker and putting yourself in danger and you can escape before the miscreant discovers the car will not start.

            Also, if the car locking remote is equipped with an alarm, activate it while leaving the area.

            If you are confronted by a carjacker who is armed with a knife, gun, or other weapon (hammer, club, etc.), or if the criminal is violently agitated, excited or angry (many carjackers are high on drugs or very nervous), give up your car keys and car and leave the scene (you can get another car but not another life).  If in the auto, get out quickly; leave the keys, pocketbook, etc., and leave the area immediately.

            Without being obvious, try to get a description of the carjacker; age, sex, race, height, weight, hair color, clothes, etc.  If possible, jot down this information when away from the scene.  Call this information to the police along with the type and make of your car and the direction of flight as soon as possible.  Try to remain calm.

            If there is a child in the car with you, let the carjackers know by informing him in a loud-clear voice repeating, “my child is in the car.”  While announcing the presence of the child in the car, continue to unbuckle the child from the car seat.  Remove the child to a safe area and leave as fast as possible.


Fighting Back


            In the past, many law officers said that victims of carjacking, especially women, should not resist the criminal act or fight back.

            Today, in light of what has happened to carjack victims such as the school teacher in New Jersey, the two nuns and others, most law enforcement officers, victim advocates, and self defense experts recommend that victims should fight back if they are forced to remain in the carjacked vehicle and feel their life and safety from assault, rape, etc. is in danger.  Not all people agree with this position, but most agree you have a better chance of surviving if you resist and fight back.

            Recent studies show women (in particular) who resist do not substantially increase their likelihood of being seriously injured or murdered (according to Paxton Quigley in her book “Not an Easy Target” Self Protection for Women).

            There are many weapons a victim of a carjacking situation can use to defend themselves such as pepper spray, hair spray, keys, pocketknives, wrenches, flashlight, etc.  If you are kidnapped during the carjacking and decide to resist, it should be done shortly after being abducted or while in a populated or business area.

            Spray, strike, cut, or whatever is necessary to distract the carjackers, grab the steering wheel and force the vehicle into hitting parked cars, trees or other vehicles on the road.  This should not be done on a high-speed highway, but in any area or road where the traffic is at a moderate or slow speed.  The objective is to save your life and end the kidnapping by any means available and necessary.

            If the kidnapper/carjacker is armed with a handgun and you feel you are in immediate danger, you can take immediate, aggressive action to protect your life by grabbing the handgun with both hands and pushing the muzzle away from pointing in your direction.

            If the firearm is a semi-auto pistol, wrap your hands around the slide and squeeze tightly.  If a round is fired the pistol will not cycle and will have a spent shell in the chamber.  If the handgun is a revolver, wrap both hands around the cylinder tightly.  The revolver cannot be fired if the cylinder cannot rotate a live round into the chamber (this life saving disarming method is practiced by many police tactical units as a close up defensive maneuver).

            If the carjacker intends to shoot, it will usually happen when the vehicle is stopped or moving slowly.  If you (victim) can wrest the gun away from the carjacker, it can be used against him or thrown away, and if made inoperable, you can attempt to get out of the vehicle and run for safety.  This tactic should be only used as a “last resort” to save your life.

            Some survival experts recommend that if a carjacking victim is also kidnapped and they feel their life is in danger if they are taken to an isolated area, they should jump from the moving car to save their life.

            This of course is a “last resort” effort and has been successful in some occasions when the conditions are ideal to prevent serious injury or death.  This tactic is possible only when:

  1. The vehicle is moving at a slower speed (20 MPH or less) in light traffic, close to the shoulder.
  2. The victim is seated in the passenger side of the car, hands in front and accessible to the door handle.
  3. The kidnapper is distracted and not paying attention.

When jumping, the victim should roll up into a ball, knees up, head up, chin to chest and arms folded across the chest.  The victim lands on their feet and rolls backward (like a parachutist landing).

This is a very risky and dangerous method of escape – but it may save your life.

Unfortunately, not all people are willing or able to resist and fight back.  Age is not necessarily a deterrent to fighting back.  When faced with being a victim of a crime, we see many times in the press where elderly people, men and women, successfully fight back and overcome criminals.  The problem is usually attitude.  Some people have the opinion that if they do not resist (the teacher) they will be safe.  We call them victims.  Other people are unable to use violence under circumstance, even to protect their own lives.  But most men and women will react strongly if their children or family are threatened with serious physical injury or death.  It has been suggested that people who are reluctant to use violence for self defense should try to put themselves in the mindset that their family and children are in danger and react accordingly.  Your fear becomes rage and violence.  This phenomenon or primitive reaction has been discussed and taught by many self defense instructors. Everyone has something in their subconscious mind or perhaps on the surface of their mind that when tapped can spark a ferocity that will intensify their ability to fight…think of it as controlled rage.

Gun in the Car

You have a right, as a lawful citizen, to seek a concealed weapons permit.  Just a word about having a handgun in the car for self defense.  NEVER leave a gun in the car can be easily stolen when the car is parked and hard to get to if carjacked.  It could also provide a criminal with a weapon.  If legally licensed to carry a handgun, keep it on your person where it is accessible in an emergency.

Additional Points To Consider

            Here are additional suggestions for the public in an effort to protect you from a carjacking/kidnapping situation.

  1. If thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back taillights, stick your arm out of the opening and start waving like crazy.  The driver will not be able to see you, but everybody else will.  This has saved lives.
  2. Women have a tendency to get into their car and just sit (organizing their days).  DO NOT DO THIS!  The predator may be watching and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go.  AS SOON AS YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR, LOCK THE DOORS AND LEAVE.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings, especially upon entering your car in a garage or parking lot.  Look into your car, including the passenger side and back seat before entering the car.
  4. If a van is parked next to your car on the driver’s side, enter your car from the passenger door.  In many cases an attacker will pull the victim into their van while they are attempting to get into their car.
  5. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of the vehicle and the passenger side.  If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may be better off to walk back to the mall, work, and get a guard/policeman to escort you to your car.




            Carjacking can be one of the most serious crimes perpetrated against an individual, especially if kidnapped along with the car.

            Although most carjackings are only to take your vehicle for joyriding, or to sell it, a small percentage is to commit another crime against the owner such as rape, robbery, kidnapping and murder.  So while driving your car on the street, driveway, or parking it, we must always be alert to our surroundings and have a defensive mindset, ready to defend us against any attack.

            The methods of protecting yourself against a carjacking in this article are not 100% effective in all cases.

            There are no guarantees when it comes to dealing with violent criminals, but these tactics have worked in the past in some cases as reported by some police agencies and other experts.  They are worth keeping in mind and trying if you become a victim of a carjacking or any other crime.

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Last modified: April 5,2013