Carjacking in Canada

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					         Carjacking In Canada
Carjacking is a composite word formed by combining the words “car” and “hijacking”.
Although it primarily refers to a form of “live” auto theft, too often the crime is
accompanied by violence, assault, and even death. The typical carjacker is armed, in
a hurry and in no mood for negotiation. You might say that carjacking is a car
owner’s worst nightmare.

Most people assume that carjacking is a relatively recent phenomenon; a product of
the dangerous brew of guns, drugs and gangs. This is only partially correct. In actual
fact, cars have been hijacked throughout the long history of the automobile. We
might even trace the practice back to the “stagecoach rustlers” of the Old West. The
object is always the same: theft of the vehicle and usually robbery of the passengers
as well. The first documented case of carjacking occurred in the year 1912 when the
notorious Bonnot Gang stopped a chauffer-driven De Dion-Bouton automobile that
was traveling on the highway between Paris and Lyon, France. As the road passed
through the dark and secluded Senart forest, members of the gang attacked the
vehicle, killing both the passenger and the armed chauffeur.

To this very day, violence has been the trademark of most carjacking cases. There
are several reasons for this. One is that the crime usually takes place in a public
place. The carjacker feels pressured to make his point forcefully so that the victim
quickly complies before the attempt is widely noticed. On the victim’s side, there is
understandable reluctance to give up a valuable possession that may also contain
other valuables and personal identification items. The net result is that both the
victim and the perpetrator are in an excited state approaching panic. Throw loaded
weapons into the mix and very bad things can (and do) happen. Most ordinary
criminals try to avoid violent confrontations, so it’s reasonable to wonder why
carjacking rates are on the rise. Once again we place a lot of the blame on guns,
drugs and gangs. The growth of urban gangs in the latter part of the 20th century
saw the “thrill” of carjacking being manipulated into becoming a rite of passage. It is
also theorized that criminal gangs who carry out “hit & run” style crimes like bank
robberies need a vehicle that cannot be traced to them. This may explain why even
rolling rustbuckets have been carjacked. When more expensive vehicles are
carjacked, it’s usually by drug addicts who are looking for high cash value and a
quick turnover. Lastly, it is theorized that improvements in vehicle security systems
have forced car thieves to tackle their prey when it’s out on the open road.

Too many Canadians look at carjacking as a problem mainly afflicting the USA, but
guns, drugs and gangs are by no means exclusively American societal ills. Even so,
the statistics are sobering. The US Department of Justice estimates that an average
of 49,000 carjacking attempts per year were reported in the period 1992 through
1996 inclusive and that the success rate in carjacking attempts is about 50%. While
Statistic Canada does not publish specific numbers of carjackings, even a
conservative ballpark estimate supposes several hundred carjackings taking place
each year in Canada.

By this point you’re probably thinking, “What if someone tries to carjack MY car?” By
simply employing a few common sense practices, you can help ensure you won’t
become a carjacking target. There are generally three critical times when you may
be approached by someone intent on performing a carjacking:

   1. As you enter your car - Walk confidently, alertly and with your head up,
      noticing anyone who may be loitering in the vicinity of your car. Ideally,
      you’ve parked in an open area that isn’t close to dumpsters, hedges or large
      parked trucks or vans. When you reach your vehicle, scan the interior to
      make sure it’s unoccupied. Then take a final glance around, quickly enter your
      vehicle and lock all of the doors.

   2. As you come to a stop while driving - Don’t roll your window down at the
      request of anyone who asks. If somebody appears to be in trouble, it only
      may “appear” to be the case. Call 911 on your cell-phone instead of stopping
      to render assistance or stop at a busy gas station somewhere down the road
      and alert the authorities. Carjacking attempts have even been known to be
      made while a car is being driven. An infamous carjacking tactic, according to
      Chris McGoey of San Francisco’s McGoey Security Consulting, “ to bump
      your car from behind to get you to pull over and stop. We have all been
      trained to always stop following an auto accident and exchange license and
      insurance information. What a perfect scenario for a carjacker!”

   3. As you exit your car immediately after parking - First of all, carefully consider
      where you’re parking. Is the area well lit and clearly visible from a distance?
      It’s always a good idea to secure valuables in your trunk or at least out of
      plain view. Temptation is the mother of criminal predation, after all.

Carjacking is very much a crime of opportunity. Carjackers, like predators in the
animal world, look for easy targets in an effort to reduce the risk to themselves. By
being careless or even foolish, you leave yourself open to becoming a victim. By
taking a little care, you might prevent someone from taking your little car.

Steve Levenstein
February 22nd, 2006

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