Chicago Police to lead task force to stop carjackings

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Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, center, said a task force has formed to stop carjackings. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Sunday announced the formation of a new team of law enforcement officers who’ll be plucked from an alphabet soup of local, state and federal agencies and charged with one task: stop carjackings.

The interagency carjacking squad willinclude members of the FBI, ATF, Illinois State Police and local and federal prosecutors.

But Chicago police will lead the effort, Johnson said at a news conference Sunday at a North Side police station.

A meeting to sort out logistics and responsibilities was set for 11 a.m. Monday at police headquarters.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel characterized the measure as a “first step” in combatting carjackings.

Johnson wouldn’t discuss details about how many people would be on the new unit or how it would operate.

“I don’t want to give away the playbook,” he said.

The commitment represents a dramatic escalation of resources aimed at the issue.

In November, after a rash of carjackings, Johnson enlisted a top deputy and Robin Robinson, a former television news anchor who’s now a community affairs adviser, to find out what’s driving the trend. The two visited several West Side high schools in areas police determined teen carjackers were coming from.

There were 663 carjackings in 2016. There were nearly 1,000 last year. And the problem seems to be getting worse.

During the first month of 2018 there were 86 carjackings — a 19 percent increase over the same period from 2017.

Johnson said representatives of the juvenile justice system would join future discussions to ensure young carjackers don’t get off lightly.

“Juveniles are committing these crimes far more than they used to,” Johnson said. “You can’t just give them a slap on the wrist because when we do that, the message that we send is that we’re not serious about holding them accountable.”

Reasons behind the crime vary, Johnson said.

“We do know that people do it because they use those vehicles to commit other crimes like drive-by shootings or smash-and-grabs,” he said.

“We also know that some of them are committed just for the thrill of doing it and the reason we know that is because we’ll recover that same vehicle four or five blocks away.”

Carjacking headlines have increased along with the crime spike.

The news conference Sunday came two days after a 54-year-old retired Chicago cop thwarted a carjacking in the Streeterville neighborhood.

He was unloading luggage outside a hotel when a carjacker got in his running car and drove off. However, the car promptly got stuck in traffic.

The retired officer caught up to the vehicle and detained the driver, a 15-year-old boy.

The teen was arrested and charged along with two other boys. They were 14 and 17, police said.

On a separate note, Johnson said the city’s plan to hire nearly 1,000 officers by year’s end is on track and that more than 80 new officers were being assigned to police districts.

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