Editorial: Create task force to fight rise in carjackings
It was only a few days before Christmas when Kimberly Lightford and her husband Eric McKennie were confronted by three masked carjackers in suburban Broadview.
"I am thankful that my husband and I are alive and physically unharmed," Lightford said shortly afterward in a prepared statement reported by the Chicago Tribune. "I am trying to process the trauma of what happened."
The vast majority of us will never be victims of a carjacking, but the fact that Lightford was illustrates that any of us could be. She is a state senator from Maywood -- in fact, the second most powerful person in the Illinois Senate.
Lightford and her husband were not physically harmed, but they easily could have been. Before the culprits made off with their luxury SUV, 10 to 15 shots were exchanged between at least one of them and McKennie, although it is as yet unclear how the gunfire broke out.
The vast majority of carjackings are committed with armed threats. Any one of them carries a risk of violence, even if unintended.
But more to the point, every victim of these thefts also becomes, like Lightford, a victim of a trauma that never quite disappears.
Few of us will have our autos stolen, but we all are victims of a collective trauma, victims who have had our sense of safety stolen.
It would be irresponsible sensationalism and exaggeration to say we are in the midst of an epidemic of carjackings. But in the past few years, carjackings have emerged as a phenomenon that had previously not been on the public radar.
As Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart noted when announcing an initiative in December, the number of carjackings in the county had increased by 43% over 2020. And 2020 had marked a 135% increase over 2019.
That the crime is on the rise, there is no doubt. It is not just a local matter. Carjackings appear to be on the rise nationally as well
But as yet, there seems to be little strategic response. We doubt there can be one single answer.
Some suggest that today's more lax bail requirements may play a role. While nothing should as yet be ruled out, the early indications are that this may be a red herring. Statistics do not at this point support the contention.
While the incidences of cases are up, arrests are down. That supports Dart's proposal to increase the technological capability to identify stolen cars more immediately.
Does the proliferation of guns play a role? It would be hard to conclude otherwise.
Does sentencing? Do we need more effective strategies to combat gangs? Are there technological advancements auto manufacturers can add to provide better protection against this menace? All are areas that no doubt warrant exploration.
What Illinois needs more than one simple answer is a task force that objectively examines the problem identifies concrete solutions.
It is not just our safety that is at stake. It also is our peace of mind.