How to avoid becoming a victim of a carjacking: First, put away the phone

  • This stolen Toyota Camry was used in a carjacking at Oakbrook Center mall in 2018. It crashed after a high-speed chase by police.

    This stolen Toyota Camry was used in a carjacking at Oakbrook Center mall in 2018. It crashed after a high-speed chase by police. Courtesy of ABC 7 Chicago

 
 
Updated 1/18/2021 4:05 PM

News of recent carjackings -- especially the one Saturday in Aurora where a woman was shot -- may have drivers on edge.

While there is no indication of an unusual increase in carjackings in the Western suburbs, police officials are offering advice to avoid becoming a victim.

 

First, they say, drivers should put away the cellphones and pay attention to what's going on around them.

"I think the starting point is people need to be alert, be aware," Bloomingdale Public Safety Director Frank Giammarese said.

Oak Brook police Sgt. Reid Foltyniewicz said carjackers, auto thieves and burglars look for people who are distracted -- head down, looking at their phone -- while walking to their car or just sitting in the vehicle. But criminals get nervous when they see people looking around, he said.

Other tips include:

• Beware of strangers sitting in parked cars.

Criminals know people are less likely to be suspicious if they see other people sitting in a car in a mall or business parking lot, as opposed to seeing a stranger parked on the street outside their house.

"All they need to do is sit in a parking lot of 200 cars and blend in," Foltyniewicz said.

• Pay attention to your instincts. If someone hanging around seems suspicious, turn around, go back to the store and call the police.

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• Don't sit around in your car.

"Get in, lock your doors and get moving," Foltyniewicz said.

If you have to sit in your car for a while, lock the doors, keep the windows rolled up and pay attention to what is going on around you.

"You have to look outside," Giammarese said. "It may give you the ability to drive away or do something different."

• If somebody hits your car from behind, if possible, move the vehicle to a well-lit, well-populated area before getting out to inspect for damage.

• Have a game plan.

Foltyniewicz suggests thinking about, "What would I do if I was carjacked?" Having practiced a game plan may help prevent your brain from freezing up in the moment, he said.

• Give up your vehicle.

Unless somebody else is inside your car, such as a child, don't fight with the thief.

"Don't risk the safety of yourselves or others," Giammarese said.

"If they take you," Foltyniewicz said, "there is just a lot more bad that happens."

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