Carjackings in cities like NYC jump over 200% – often with kids behind the wheel, officials say

Carjackings have skyrocketed 200% — or more — in multiple big cities across the county in past years, as law enforcement officials and crime experts pleaded with lawmakers on Tuesday for help addressing the rampant issue, with one official warning: "Anyone in a car is a potential victim."

Law enforcement executives and officials from crime monitoring agencies from across the country convened on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing to address the startling trends related to carjackings. During his time at the microphone, National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) president and CEO David Glawe revealed some cities saw carjacking upticks as high as more than 280% between 2019 and 2021.

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Carjackings have soared by 286% in New York City from 2019 to 2021, while Philadelphia saw the second-highest increase, with 238, the NICB found. Chicago followed with the third-highest increase, 207%, from 2019 to 2021, then Washington, D.C. with a 200% increase and New Orleans with 159%, Glawe told lawmakers.

"A disturbing subplot to these bleak numbers is that many carjackings are often committed in furtherance of other serious violent crimes, and many carjackings are committed by juveniles — some as young as 11 years old," Glawe explained.

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Glawe was joined by Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, Metropolitan Family Services executive director Vaughn Bryant, Alliance for Automotive Innovation president and CEO John Bozzella, former U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman and Dallas Police Department Chief Edgardo "Eddie" Garcia.

Garcia, who also spoke on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, testified that the increase in carjackings is being driven by certain factors, such as financial gain and to further other violent criminal activity.

"Many of these carjackings are also committed by juveniles seeking to gain notoriety on social media or as part of gang initiations," he said.

He pointed to reluctant prosecutors and judges who "continue to release violent and repeat offenders pretrial," and noted that the challenges also apply to juvenile offenders.,

"Proactive policing is critical and will be key to reducing violent crime overall, which will help drive down carjacking," he explained. "Unfortunately, proactive policing in some cities has become a luxury, especially for local police departments contending with high murder rates, low staffing and low morale. Enforcement needs more resources to bolster its response to violent crime."

After Tuesday's hearing, Garcia told Fox News Digital his goal was to "reduce the number of victims we have."

"A secondary goal is to recover the car," he said, when reached by phone. "The primary goal is to do our best to ensure that no one has a gun in their face demanding their car in the first place."

The issue of carjackings across the nation is not new, but has made garnered media attention in recent months as alleged criminals have become more brazen and fearless in their attacks — all while some are only teenagers or pre-teens.

In early February, Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County law enforcement officials announced they were combining efforts to crack down on carjackings in the area and bolstering Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) carjacking task force. At the time, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the department had seen "a troubling increase in carjackings across our region, driven in large part by juveniles."

She added: "We need our community and families to step up and join us by wrapping their arms around these kids, because they are the future of our community."

By Feb. 1, 2022, Washington, D.C.’s MPD had arrested 19 people for carjacking offenses — with 14 of those offenders being juveniles, the department said.

Chicago and Philadelphia have also been outspoken about their efforts to combat the startling carjacking trends.

Philadelphia police had already received nearly 90 reports of carjackings year-to-date as of Jan. 15, the department said. And there were 757 carjackings reported in all of 2021, up 34% from the year prior.

At the time, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw called the uptick in carjacking incidents "one of the more disturbing trends that we have seen."

Last year, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown bolstered the department’s Vehicular Hijacking Task Force to address the problem. At the time, officials said Chicago Police Department arrest data showed carjackers were most often between the ages of 15 and 20, sometimes even younger.

"We’re having 12-year-olds commit these acts now," Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said at the time, "and we gotta do something together as a city to stop these actions."

By Jan. 13, 2022,  Chicago Police had received 70 reports of carjackings year-to-date and had made more than 56 carjacking-related arrests, officials said.

Speaking to lawmakers on Tuesday, Sheriff Dart of Cook County, which also includes Chicago, said carjackings in the Windy City had increased "at an alarming rate," and had tripled over the past decade. His department had recorded more than 2,000 carjackings in 2021 – roughly one every four hours, he said.

"Anyone in a car is a potential victim," he said. "You, your spouse, your children, your parents and yes, even lawmakers."