CPD to ‘double down’ on carjacking task force

Task force of 40 officers has led to an 87% increase in arrests, but carjackings still are occurring in record-high numbers.

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As carjackings in the city surge past 1,000 for the second straight year, Chicago Police officials are looking to beef up a task force that has already nearly doubled arrests for stealing cars.

Police Supt. David Brown said Monday that the department has made 215 arrests for vehicular hijacking, an increase of nearly 90% over last year, when the city saw some 1,400 carjackings.

Brown credited the work of a task force of officers from the Chicago Police Department, suburban departments and federal law enforcement, and said he was weighing adding officers to the 40 already detailed to the team.

“Last fall we had a spike in vehicle hijackings that carried over into the next year, into this year. So we want to try to anticipate some of that maybe happening again this year and add more resources in anticipation of likely a continued spike in carjackings,” Brown said Monday during his weekly news conference at CPD headquarters.

Lt. John Folino, who heads the task force, said his team has taken a more aggressive, “real-time” approach to solving cases, with officers working closely with dispatchers to respond to reported carjackings and monitor alerts from license plate-reading devices across the city. Before the task force was formed in January, vehicular hijackings often did not get an immediate response from detectives, who might not start investigating the crime until the day after it occurred.

“We work each case now like it’s a homicide,” Folino said in an interview Monday.

The heightened response from CPD allows officers to dispatch helicopters or otherwise surveil stolen cars — the department generally tries to avoid pursuits that can be a risk to bystanders, Folino said — and to gather evidence that can be used to support an arrest. Most of the arrestees have been young men and teens with a handful of suspects who were 11 or 12, Folino said.

Brown said the department has logged 895 total arrests in the charging categories related to carjacking: 215 arrests for vehicular hijacking or aggravated vehicular hijacking; 251 arrests for possession of a stolen motor vehicle; and 429 arrests for criminal trespass to a vehicle.

The 215 arrests for vehicular hijacking would mark a record percentage of arrests relative to the number of cases, according to a study by the Civic Federation, which found that the department last year made arrests in only 4% of carjacking cases. Carjackings have spiked in cities across the country in the last two years, with Minneapolis seeing an increase of more than 500% in 2020, and New Orleans seeing cases triple.

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