Chicago Carjackings Skyrocket Over The Past Five Years

Gabrielle Galarowski
5 min readApr 29, 2021

By Gabrielle Galarowski and Kelli Hooser

Carjackings in Chicago have grabbed headlines in the past several months, but the number of cases has been significantly increasing over the past five years, and experts expect it to continue to rise.

The city first noticed this increase in 2017 with a total of 967 carjackings reported, a 30% increase from 2016.

Within the first few months of 2021, Chicago saw a high volume of carjackings compared to previous years. As of March 20, there were over 370 carjackings, putting the city on pace for a record 1,800 carjackings for this year.

But officials did see a glimmer of hope in the first four months of 2021: a 55% decline in vehicular hijackings since January. Still, police saw seven new carjackings and robberies on the South and Southwest sides in the last week of April.

The interactive chart below shows the total number of carjackings that were reported over the past five years. There was a major increase in 2020 with over 1,800 carjackings reported.

University of Illinois at Chicago Police Chief, Kevin Booker attributes that these crimes are often committed by minors as they may have little adult supervision. Minors committing these crimes view it as an opportunity for a quick joy ride. They typically do not seek a certain make or model of a car, but rather a car that is readily available. These crimes are also likely to be committed by minors because the punishment is minimal since they are underage.

Booker noticed that the increase in carjackings committed by minors is due to the pandemic.

More specifically kids being out of school,” he said. “There are also other social factors that may be contributing to this uprising.”

There are more minors at home from school while their parents are at work, resulting in more minors out on the streets looking for a joy ride with their friends. Carjackings can put the victims in danger but this doesn’t seem to stop minors from committing these crimes.

“I have not researched that area, but I would guess that they are bored and have a lack of guidance in their lives,” Booker said. “I would surmise that glorification with some video games playing a part, as well.”

The map below shows the areas of Chicago where carjackings occurred over the past five years. Each year, from 2015–2020, is marked in a different color. The map clearly depicts numerous carjackings taking place across the heart of the city. In areas near Elk Grove, there were no carjackings that took place over the past five years.

Christopher Herrmann, a criminal justice expert and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, attributed part of the increase to a shift in fashion. People are wearing masks during the pandemic.

“I think one of the issues obviously is the fact that everyone is wearing masks these days, so the fact that everyone is masked up, is obviously an easy way to conceal your identity,” he said. “In the normal world, where someone was approaching your car with a mask on, you would assume that they’re a bad guy and they’re going to do a bad thing.”

Ride-sharing apps such as Lyft and Uber are also being targeted in carjackings. Herrmann was able to confirm this and shed light on the factors that give the offender an advantage.

“The offender really gets to control the environment where they’re going to steal the car which they rarely have control over. The offender files up their Uber or Lyft and tells them where they would like to be picked up,” Herrmann said.

“Obviously, they could be in a more remote place, with less vehicle traffic, less walking traffic, less people to identify them, and then also make sure there’s no cameras in the area. The other benefit of that form of victimization is the offender also gets to understand what kind of car is showing up.”

On April 9, Uber sent out a rider verification as a way that their drivers are safe. Uber and Lyft have been contacted by some of their drivers as they want more precautions.

Chicago resident, Annie Siebenaler, lives in an area that is high risk for carjackings. Locals must take the necessary precautions to keep their vehicle from being hijacked, she said.

“I was watching the ABC 7 Chicago News when they said there were a few carjackings in Rogers Park so I started watching closely over the winter because this is close to where I live,” she said. “After seeing the news story, I really started trying to take note of walking without my airpods in and being more aware of my surroundings.”

The Chicago Police Department has since created the Chicago Police Vehicular Hijacking Task Force, a team of federal law enforcement officials specializing in violent crime cases, who will fight with the community against carjackings.

Since the task force has been in place, the city has seen a decrease in carjackings compared to the number of cases that were reported in Chicago at the start of the year. The Chicago Police have arrested 323 carjackers as of March 10.

“A class 1 felony vehicular hijacking or carjacking, is punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison,” said Booker. “Under certain circumstances, the sentence for a class 1 vehincular hijacking or carjacking, can be extended to 15 to 30 years in prison.”

Protect Yourself

Many believe they will not be a victim to carjacking which makes them an easy target. Carjackers are looking for an opportunity. They are not looking for a specific car, they are looking for the person that will least expect them.

Follow these carjacking tips to help prevent you or someone you know from being a victim of carjacking.

If you do become a victim of carjacking, give up the car. Losing your life over a car is simply not worth it. Call 911 and provide the details of your vehicle: license plate number, make, model, and color. Call your insurance company as well to let them handle it.

To view infographic