Philadelphia carjackings: What police say you should know amid spike in carjackings

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is responding to the sharp increase in carjackings in the city since 2020 as the department is sharing tips and warning signs to help keep residents safe. 

Outlaw shared a message on the department's social media pages Wednesday night saying there was no single issue more important to her and the department than "fighting the surge of violent crime that continues to plague our city."

She goes on to call the 'onslaught' of violence 'unacceptable' and says the department remains committed to slowing those trends. 

"One of the more disturbing trends that we have seen in Philadelphia is the startling increase in the number of carjackings – the taking of a vehicle by force or fear - that have been experienced over the past two years," Outlaw wrote. 

According to the post, there were 757 reported carjackings in Philadelphia in 2021 – an increase of 34% over 2020. 

So far in 2022, police data obtained by FOX 29 says there have already been at least 90 reported carjackings. In three of those 90 incidents, armed drivers have taken matters into their own hands, shooting and wounding a total of four suspects. 

Outlaw called carjackings a ‘crime of opportunity’ and speculated at possible reasons for the spike - including the increased use of vehicles for deliveries, curbside service, and ridesharing providing increased opportunities for criminals. She added that the COVID-19 pandemic had normalized mask-wearing, which has allowed offenders to avoid catching their victim's attention and made it harder for investigators to identify them.


The commissioner also added that the spike has been seen elsewhere in the country. 

"We also know that this trend is not unique to Philadelphia, as similar increases have been seen across the country during the same time period," she wrote.

Outlaw says the department has deployed additional resources to investigate carjackings and will be placing plain-clothes officers in targeted areas. 

In her posts, the department also included an info-graphic with details on hotspots, scenarios, safety tips, and information on what you should do if you are the victim of a carjacking.

What are carjacking hotspots?

Philadelphia police have identified a number of hotspots where they say carjackings are more likely to occur. They're urging residents to exercise heightened awareness in these areas.

Getting in and out of your vehicle provides an opportunity to criminals, making residential driveways and parking lots or garages potential hotspots.

Gas stations and ATMs are also considered hotspots, as drivers are likely to get in and out of their vehicles there as well. 

Streets with poor lighting were also listed as potential hotspots.

What are common carjacking scenarios? 

Police highlighted two scenarios they say present opportunities for criminals to strike, including 'bump and runs' and food deliveries. 

During a bump and run scenario, police say a criminal with at least one passenger bumps the victim's vehicle. Once the victim gets out to assess damage or exchange information, the criminals strike, taking the victim's vehicle. 

Philadelphia police say you should stay inside with the windows closed and the door locked. If you feel a threat, they say to put your flashers on, signal the driver to follow you and drive to the nearest police station. 

During food delivery scenarios, police say the perpetrators may call for a food delivery to an address. Once the food arrives, the perpetrators steal the delivery driver's vehicle. 

Safety tips for drivers

Drivers are advised to stay aware of their surroundings and make a habit of driving away immediately after starting their car. Before getting in, drivers should look around for suspicious persons in vehicles or loitering nearby before entering your vehicle.

It's recommended that drivers park in well-lit areas and keep their doors and windows locked. 

Police say you should trust your instincts, and if you feel something wrong, leave the area. Drivers should also keep their cell phones in their pockets so they can dial 911 easily, police say.

Police also recommend drivers don't stop for stranded motorists along the road. Instead, note their location and call 911. 

What to do if you're the victim of a carjacking

If you are confronted by a carjacker, police say you should give up your car and leave the scene, avoiding verbal and physical confrontations. If there is a child in the vehicle, police say you should let the perpetrator know.

Drivers should also make a mental note of the suspect and a description of any the vehicles involved, including their own. 

Call 911 as soon as possible. 



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