The city of Chicago, already dealing with a record spike in gun violence and murders, is now home to what residents term an “epidemic” of carjackings.
Early Wednesday morning, an armed carjacking was reported just outside Chicago’s landmark Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears tower). The incident, captured on video, happened just after 6:30 in the morning according to CWB Chicago, and the offenders went on to commit a second robbery nearby.
“The 31-year-old [carjacking] victim was sitting in his car outside the former Sears Tower, 233 South Wacker, when a vehicle pulled up and two men got out. The offenders forced his door open, pointed a large black handgun at his forehead, and ordered him to hand over his phone and surrender control of his car, according to police,” CWB reported.
“Moments later, a black Dodge Journey rolled up on a 27-year-old man as he walked in the 300 block of West Van Buren. An offender jumped out of the passenger side, knocked the man to the ground, and took his keys and wallet, according to a CPD report. The victim had just walked out of a nearby parking garage when the attack unfolded,” the outlet continued, connecting the second attack to the first. “Some witnesses reported that the carjackers arrived outside Willis Tower in a Dodge Journey, according to information from the scene.”
The incident is just the latest in a record year for carjackings — a year that began just 21 days ago. Carjackings are on the rise, CBS Chicago reports, even “after 2020 saw a jump of more than 135 percent in the number of carjackings compared to the year before.”
“Through Jan. 10, the latest city data, Chicago police recorded 61 carjackings. That is compared with a total of 22 in the same time period in 2020. Carjackings in 2020 rose about 135%, to 1,415 in 2020 from 603 in 2019,” according to the Chicago Tribune, which reviewed police data on the subject.
“The gangs are using these vehicles because they feel they can’t be traced,” South Chicago District Capt. Michael Murphy told the outlet. “They can do their crimes, whether it be shootings or whatever it is, and then dump the car.”
A Chicago Tribune map, accompanying that report, shows that few areas of the city are safe from the carjacking epidemic. Incidents are spread across the downtown area and into the surrounding neighborhoods and are not concentrated on the south and west sides the way recent shootings and homicides have been.
Although the United States Department of Justice had been assisting Chicago’s police force in handling organized crime and gang violence over the summer, it is not clear that that program, Operation Legend, is still in effect.
“The U.S. Department of Justice does have the ability to charge some cases federally and announced the expansion of local/federal partnership in July,” CBS Chicago notes. “But on Monday, the Northern District was unable to give us hard numbers for cases they’ve charged so far due to the federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”
The carjacking outside of Willis Tower was especially serious, Chicago police say, and they’re using footage, captured of the crime, to crack what appears to be a criminal ring.
“Chicago Police said these suspects are linked to other crimes over the past week in the city and suburbs and believe they are using the stolen cars to then rob businesses. They are also suspects in various shootings on the West Side,” ABC Chicago reported Thursday.
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