Carjack patterns emerging State police suggest common-sense steps

December 23, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Maryland State Police/JEF DAUBER/STAFF GRAPHICStaff Writer

If you're a black male in your early 20s and you drive a Chevrolet, statistics say, you're the most likely person to be carjacked in the Baltimore area.

The carjacker most likely will be a 16- to 20-year-old male with a handgun who accosts you in a parking lot on a Friday, Saturday or Monday.

And if you live at an apartment complex, you're at even higher risk.

The statistics, though, show for the most part that carjackers are not all that selective about their targets. The victims range in age from 14 to 91, and the vehicles taken vary from Mopeds to Cadillacs to BMWs.

Those conclusions are drawn from a Maryland State Police report released yesterday that analyzes the 445 carjacking incidents in and around Baltimore during the first nine months of 1992.

"Maryland is, to our knowledge, the first state that has taken a comprehensive look at carjacking," said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a state police spokesman.

"We're trying to compile as complete a picture as possible of the carjacking dilemma."

This is the first time police have classified carjacking -- defined as the taking of a vehicle through force or the threat of force -- as a separate crime.

Previously, it was categorized with auto thefts.

Without statistics from previous years, it is difficult to determine how much the problem has grown, police said.

But what the data do show is a basic profile of carjackers, their victims, where and why the incidents happen, and at what times.

For instance:

* About 51 percent of all carjackings occur when cars are parked.

* Apartment parking lots top the list of where robberies occur (14.4 percent), followed by the open road (13.8 percent), shopping centers (12.8 percent) and gasoline stations (10.3 percent.)

* Residential driveways account for only 4.2 percent of all carjackings, and public parking lots and garages make up less than 4 percent.

* A firearm of some kind is used in 70 percent of the incidents.

* About 67 percent of carjacking victims are male and 68 percent are black.

* About 40 percent of the victims are between 21 and 30 years old.

* Twelve people either were killed or seriously injured, while 39 others received minor injuries.

* Chevrolets (17 percent) and Nissans (13 percent) are the cars most frequently stolen.

Police said the studies of carjacking problems are in their infancy, but it appears that the reasons for carjacking vary greatly from city to city.

"Baltimore carjackers seem to be using the vehicles mainly for joy-riding or to use in the commission of other crimes," Mr. Sipes said.

"That is different than the problems they have in Boston or New York, where car theft and car robbery are mainly done for selling the car or stripping it for parts."

Among the schemes used by carjackers in 1992 are posing as hitchhikers and staging accidents to get drivers to stop and assist.

A relatively new carjacking phenomenon is the "bump-and-rob," in which the thief rear-ends a car in traffic with his own vehicle. When the driver pulls over to exchange insurance information, the motorist's vehicle is stolen.

Probably the best tip for prevention is to avoid traveling alone; in nearly all of the Maryland carjackings, a sole victim was involved.

Police also recommended that vehicle owners not resist carjackers and simply turn over their keys when so demanded.

They also said drivers should always lock car doors and windows, even while in the car.

Carjacking came into national prominence this year after Pam Basu was accosted near her suburban Howard County home and was dragged to her death after her arm was caught in the seat belt.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced in October the creation of a special commission to study the problem of carjacking and auto thefts.

State police figures for the first nine months of 1992 show overall vehicle thefts rose 5 percent, from 26,164 to 27,428.

Mr. Sipes said carjacking represents an evolution in the crime world.

"Offenders now seem willing to confront the owners of vehicles directly," he said. "In the minds of many criminologists, that is unprecedented."

CARJACKINGS IN 1992

VICTIMS' AGES

17-20

6.1%

21-25

20.8%

26-30

19.5%

31-35

13.1%

36-40

12.9%

OTHER

27.6%

CARJACKERS' DESCRIPTIONS

MALE

94%

FEMALE

3.9%

INJURIES INFLICTED

HOMICIDE

3

SERIOUS INJURY

9

SLIGHT INJURY

39

NO INJURIES

251

UNKNOWN INJURY

10

WEAPONS USED

HANDGUN

65.1

SHOTGUN

4.2%

HANDS

1.3%

KNIFE

4.2%

NO WEAPON

7.7%

OTHER

3.8%

HOW IT HAPPENED...

STOPPED BECAUSE OF TRAFFIC

1.6%

STOPPED BECAUSE OF TRAFFIC DEVICE

4.8%

PARKED

51%

HITCHHIKING PASSENGER

4.5%

OTHER

38.1%

...AND THE TIME OF DAY

MIDNIGHT - 4A.M.

83

4 A.M. - 8 A.M.

25

8 A.M. - NOON

21

NOON - 4 P.M.

31

4 P.M. - 8 P.M.

45

8 P.M. - MIDNIGHT

105

UNKNOWN

4

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