The term carjacking is commonly understood as vehicle theft involving threat, violence or intimidation. Currently, there isn’t a standard way of recording carjacking incidents in Australia, and carjacking seems to reflect in a relatively small percentage of vehicle thefts in Australia.
Carjacking motivations could be to sell the vehicle, to acquire a means of transportation or even to commit another crime such as armed robbery.
Carjackers operate in a number of different ways, all of which typically involve the use of a weapon and the threat of violence:
- Targeting moving vehicles by tailing and stopping a vehicle, or intentionally bumping a vehicle from behind to get the driver to stop and exit the vehicle.
- Stationery vehicles can be targeted where the driver has stopped at a petrol station, traffic lights, car wash or automatic teller machine.
- Vehicle owners can be targeted even if they are not at their vehicle. A driver may be followed and forced to hand over their keys.
- Vehicles may be stolen during a home burglary, where the homeowner is forced to hand over the keys.
According to the available statistics, the incidence of carjacking as opposed to car theft is low, although Crime Statistics Agency data shows that nearly 200 incidents were reported in Victoria alone between April 2015 and March 2016. In Australia there were around 51 525 car thefts in 2015 and 56000 in 2016.
It is thought that modern security systems in cars are to blame for the increasing incidence of carjacking – as the theft of parked, locked cars is becoming more difficult. Carjacking is an easy alternative.
Prevention is all about being aware of your surroundings and alert at all times while using your car – especially when parked, or waiting at an intersection, traffic lights or in heavy traffic.
Always park in well-lit areas, where there are other people or traffic. Take note of any CCTV camera locations, people standing around nearby – and always have your car keys ready in your hand when you return to your vehicle. Check inside your car, including the back seat before you get into your car. Lock the doors as soon as you are in your car, and start the engine right away.
Drive with your doors locked and the windows closed, and don’t have valuables visible on car seats.
Keep your tank filled – you really don’t want to get stranded in a strange or unsafe location.
According to the statistics, parking areas, work places, roads, driveways and service stations are the riskiest carjacking situations in descending order of risk.
If you are in the unfortunate situation of a carjack – keep your hands visible and exit the car quickly. If you have children inside the car – inform the carjacker clearly – most carjackers want the car, not your children, and don’t want to be involved in a kidnapping crime.