PHILADELPHIA - Heather Klusaritz of West Philadelphia says investigators showed up to her block last night after an off-duty Philadelphia police officer was carjacked at gunpoint near 46th Street and Hazel Avenue.
"Obviously, no one wants this to happen in their neighborhood. It’s a scary thing," says Klusaritz.
According to police, carjackings are up citywide more than 120 percent this year over last with cases surpassing 500. Anyone walking to, exiting, or sitting inside their vehicles can become a target.
Sources say the carjackers are getting bolder and younger. Out of 88 arrests this year, 56 of the suspects were under 18.
One longtime resident, who did not want to be identified, says this is the 3rd violent crime in the neighborhood in the last 8 weeks.
"I won’t go out at night," says the man.
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Just last week in Kensington, video shows two men pull a woman from a car and take off. The woman tried to stop them. She held onto the side of the vehicle and they dragged her down the road.
In last night’s carjacking, the officer was not injured and the vehicle was later recovered nearby.
Lydia Glassie of West Philadelphia says, "It makes me more cautious, for sure, in the city.
Other people say they’re not changing their behavior.
Heather Klusaritz, adding, "I don’t feel any less safe in my neighborhood. I’ve lived here for over 20 years."
Klusaritz supports the city’s plan to invest more than $150 million in programs aimed at violence prevention. Lydia Glassie shares a similar take, saying, "What’s more important is not to live in fear, but for us to deal with issues that we have.
Both women feel that poverty and low wages are strong contributing factors to crime.
Police sources say because of the uptick in carjackings, they’re putting extra effort into recovering the stolen vehicles and carefully sweeping them for forensics in hopes of making arrests. Police say the best way to protect yourself is to be extra aware of your surroundings.