How to Survive (and Prevent) a Carjacking

You’re sitting in your car at an intersection listening to the Blend on Sirius XM. Suddenly your door swings open and a gun is shoved in your face.

“Out of the car!” a voice yells.

You’re getting carjacked.

While rare, carjackings have been on the rise in recent years in cities across the United States (more on why in a bit). So it pays to have a plan for how to avoid becoming the victim of this crime, and what to do if you can’t.

To put together both prongs of said plan, I researched this area of tactical know-how, including talking with my buddy Mike Seeklander, owner of the American Warrior Society and a self-protection and tactical training expert, and share key insights on preventing and dealing with carjackings below. The Illustrated Art of... Brett McKay Best Price: $7.10 Buy New $15.66 (as of 10:10 UTC - Details)

Carjackings on the Rise

Before I started researching this article, I thought carjackings were mostly a trope from 1970s action movies. The news didn’t seem to cover many reports on this crime.

But statistics indicate that carjackings have actually been on the rise in many U.S. cities for the past decade. ChicagoMemphisNashvilleBaltimore, and New Orleans are just some of the cities that have reported a dramatic increase in carjackings in recent years.

Criminologists have a theory as to why the prevalence of carjackings has been going up: Cars today are simply harder to steal without a driver already at the wheel. The fact that modern cars come equipped with anti-theft technology, and will only start when a keyfob is in the vehicle, has made stealing parked cars much more difficult, time-consuming, and dangerous for would-be thieves than it was in the days of simple hot-wiring. So instead of stealing parked, unoccupied vehicles, criminals are taking already running cars from drivers at gunpoint. It’s a lot faster and easier than stealing a car the old-fashioned way.

Understanding the World of Carjacking

So carjackings are up. What can you do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of this crime?

Step one is to educate yourself about the world of carjacking. You need to know where carjackings are most likely to occur and how they typically go down so that you can formulate a plan on how to avoid this situation in the first place. So here’s your dossier on the criminal world of carjacking:

  • Most carjackings occur in high crime areas (duh), but Mike says they’re also increasingly happening in the safer, wealthier parts of town too: “That’s typically where the nicer cars filled with nice things are at so that’s where criminals go.”
  • Carjacking is a crime of opportunity. Carjackers prefer to work at night and in dark areas. Parking lots and intersections with poor lighting are favorite spots. Carjackings do occur, however, in driveways or near the entrances into gated communities.
  • Carjackers typically strike when the person is getting into their vehicle.
  • 92% of carjackings happen when the victim is alone in the car.
  • 90% of carjackings involved the use of a weapon, typically a firearm.
  • Carjackers generally are under the age of 21.

Below we discuss how to counteract the factors that make someone more vulnerable to this crime, in order to make yourself far less so.

Don’t Be a Carjacking Victim

Maintain situational awareness. We’ve written extensively about situational awareness here. The key points are 1) paying attention to your surroundings (get off your phone!), 2) look for anomalies in your environment, and 3) have a plan for if something goes wrong.

Situational awareness doesn’t mean being paranoid, just staying in a state of calm attentiveness.

Park in well-lit and well-populated areas. As mentioned above, carjackings are crimes of opportunity. Carjackers will steal a car if they think they’re more likely to get away with it, and they’re more likely to get away with it, if there’s no one around and it’s dark. Don’t give carjackers the opportunity. Park your car in well-lit and well-populated areas. Avoid parking next to big vans or other objects that will obscure the view of witnesses. The goal is to park in a place where lots of people can see you, and your own visibility is high. The Art of Manliness: ... Brett McKay, Kate McKay Best Price: $1.99 Buy New $7.70 (as of 12:35 UTC - Details)

Get in and out of your car with purpose. Carjackers typically prey on drivers that appear weak or are distracted. So don’t look weak or distracted. Get in and out of your car with purpose. When you’re walking to your car, keep your head on a swivel. Before you get in the car, look inside it—scanning both the front and back seats. As soon as you climb in the driver’s seat, lock the doors, and get moving. Don’t fiddle on your phone or the radio. Same goes for when you’re getting out of the car. As soon as you stop, get out, and get moving to your destination. The more time you sit in your car looking at your phone, the more time you give a carjacker to stick you up.

Keep your doors locked, and your windows rolled up. Your goal is to make it as hard as possible for someone to carjack you. Leaving your doors unlocked and windows down makes you an easy victim. As soon as you get into your car, make it a habit to lock the doors. And as great as it would be to roll the windows down on a beautiful spring day and crank up “Santeria” by Sublime while sipping a Surge, keep your windows rolled up in high-crime areas of town. You don’t want to provide easy access to thieves.

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