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City needs to get to the bottom of teen carjacking

Skyrocketing carjackings put police and wayward teens on a collision course.

A 15-year-old boy, one of four alleged carjackers, faces a murder charge for the tragic slaying of retired Chicago firefighter Dwain Williams during a carjacking in Morgan Park. In December, police investigate the area where the killing occurred.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

It’s a matter of time before an armed motorist or a police officer kills a teenage carjacker.

I’m hoping that doesn’t happen, but I can see it coming.

And the question that keeps bugging me is why are we experiencing such a dramatic rise in such a violent act?

Chicago police, on Monday, reported 1,400 carjackings were committed across Chicago in 2020.

That’s a shocking number when you consider that the big car theft story in 2016 was one about South Side gang members being linked to thefts from suburbs of dozens of luxury cars, which were used in robberies.

And in 2014, chop shops were at the center of car thefts when more than 200 stolen vehicles were found in a South Side chop shop, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Now law enforcement is struggling to curb carjackings that often include armed robberies.

Although the motives for some of these car thefts remain the same, most arrestees are young people between the ages of 15-20 years, according to police.

“What we find is these carjackings are mostly just kids joyriding in vehicles,” said Howard Ludwig, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department.

“I’ve not heard of any increase of stolen cars showing up at chop shops. The #1 thing that we have seen is joyriding,” he said.

That doesn’t mean this crime isn’t being taken seriously.

“These are armed encounters. Often a carjacking coincides with robbery. The (perpetrators) are stealing purses and cell phones. And, yes, the vehicles are sometimes used to commit other crimes,” Ludwig said.

What the joyriding teens apparently don’t understand is this is a ride that could ruin their lives.

A 15-year-old boy, one of four alleged carjackers, faces a murder charge for the tragic slaying of retired Chicago firefighter Dwain Williams during a carjacking in Morgan Park.

On Tuesday night, police arrested two 19-year-olds and two 15-year-olds during a traffic stop on the West Side after a carjacking in Noble Square.

Two other carjackings occurred that same night in different parts of the city.

The city has been lucky.

In each incident since Williams’ tragic death, the armed offenders drove off with vehicles that owners had surrendered without a fight, something that the Police Department urges motorists do.

“Give up the vehicle. Don’t get into an argument. People are irreplaceable. Try to remember as much about the suspect — the color of shoes, clothing, any distinctive markings, hat or tattoo. With COVID, everyone’s wearing masks, and that makes it more difficult.

Motorists should also be aware of what police call the “bump and run.”

“What happens is that someone is driving and is rear-ended. When they get out to look at the vehicle, someone in the other vehicle gets out and steals the victim’s vehicle,” Ludwig said.

“You have to be aware and trust your instincts. If you are going to park your car and something doesn’t feel right, go around one more time and look for a different parking spot,” he said.

And here’s a no-no that should be common sense, but, well, many of us do it — parking the car and looking at our cell phones.

“You drown out the rest of the world. That is an opportunity for someone to sneak up in your blind spot. Park your car and go inside and take care of whatever you’re doing someplace else,” Ludwig advised.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 225 carjackings in Chicago. The Chicago Police Department is battling the problem by adding more workforce.

“Last month, we added 40 officers and four supervisors to focus exclusively on carjackings. We are also working with federal prosecutors as well as Cook County prosecutors and community groups to keep an eye out for kids going down the wrong path,” Ludwig said.

But that won’t be enough.

Those grown-ups who hold sway over these wayward young folk have to get them under control.