Chicago gas stations are staffing up, hiring an army of private security guards to protect customers amid a “carjacking epidemic” that has the city on track to see 2,000 carjackings this year.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago’s aldermen — the city’s name for its city council members — are looking to create “safe spaces” where residents can pump their gas without having to worry that their vehicles will go missing the moment the vehicles are left unattended.
To help residents, one alderman pioneered a project called “Operation Safe Pump,” which pairs local gas stations with resources from Kates Security Services “to set up times when people can fill up” in targeted neighborhoods, per the Tribune. So far, two gas stations on the city’s south side are up and running with “Operation Safe Pump,” and residents are covered for one hour of safe pumping per day in the morning and one hour at night.
Other aldermen are working with local gas stations to hold “safe pump” events, helping to staff a local station with security for a few hours on a weekend day.
“People are legitimately scared to get gas even during daylight because of the rash in carjackings,” one city council member told the Trib.
As The Daily Wire reported previously, Chicago is suffering from an “epidemic” of carjackings, in addition to a spike in homicides that began back in May of 2020. In January alone, there have been 200 carjackings reported to police, and in some cases, several armed carjackings per night.
The two trends also intersect; according to Chicago’s police scanner, 7 of the 11 reports of a person shot between noon on Friday and noon on Saturday involved a person in either a parked or moving vehicle. Unlike the homicide epidemic, though, the carjacking epidemic is not limited to the city’s south and west sides. Chicago’s WGN reports that 9 of the city’s 22 police districts have reported 50 or more carjackings since the beginning of 2021.
On Friday evening, there was even an armed carjacking on one of the city’s freeways.
“Carjackings in Chicago rose about 135% to 1,415 in 2020 from 603 in 2019,” the Tribune reported Sunday. “The 2020 tally was the highest figure recorded [in Chicago] since 2001 when Chicago logged only slightly more with 1,422 …”
Police have been slow to respond. So far, the Chicago Police Department has made just 108 arrests (16% of cases, per Chicago’s WGN News), and prosecutors have charged just 58 of those individuals with trespass to a vehicle.
WGN also notes that Chicago’s police are at a loss as to explain why carjackings are suddenly on the rise. Theories on the spike range from the ubiquity of masks amid the COVID-19 epidemic, making offenders difficult to identify, to a new CPD policy that prohibits cops from conducting high-speed pursuits inside city limits.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the situation last week, suggesting that the issue had to be addressed in concert with other mayors and law enforcement agencies across the Chicago region, and promised that a new task force of 40 officers would be dispatched to help monitor the situation.