EBR Sheriff's Office warns of increase in carjackings across outlying communities
BATON ROUGE - Across the nation, a number of large cities are reporting an increase in theft and violent crimes, including a significant increase in carjackings. During 2020 New Orleans reported carjacking calls to 911 increased by 126 percent.
But large cities aren't the only areas that have been impacted. On Tuesday, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office (EBRSO) issued a warning to residents in communities just outside of the Parish, saying that an increasing number of citizens in these areas have been targeted in carjacking incidents.
In a post on EBRSO's Facebook page, officials said, "The suspects are targeting late model cars with push-button start and confronting individuals at gunpoint while they are approaching their vehicles or sitting in vehicles."
The Sheriff's Office then urged residents to remain cautious and alert to what's happening in their surroundings as they walk to and exit their vehicles.
Officials suggest the following safety measures when approaching one's vehicle:
- Walk with purpose and stay alert.
- Approach your car with the keys in hand. Look around and inside the car before getting in.
- Be wary of people loitering in the area.
- Trust your instincts; if something makes you feel uneasy, get into the car quickly, lock the doors and drive away.
Deputies also suggested these ten precautions while driving:
-Keep your doors locked and windows rolled up (at least part-way), no matter how short the distance you will be walking or how safe the neighborhood.
-Be especially alert when stopped at intersections, gas stations, ATMs and convenience stores.
-When you are coming to a stop, leave enough room to maneuver around other cars, especially if you sense trouble and need to get away. You should be able to see the rear tires of the car ahead of you.
- Drive in the center lane to make it harder for would-be carjackers to approach the car.
- Avoid driving alone, especially at night.
- Do not stop to assist a stranger whose car is broken down. Instead, help by calling law enforcement for help.
- Keep your cell phone in your pocket. If your vehicle is stolen, you will have a way of contacting 911. If your cell phone is left inside the vehicle, you will be stranded without a way to call for help.
When getting out of your car…
- Park in well-lighted areas, near sidewalks or walkways. Avoid parking near dumpsters, woods, large vans or trucks, or anything else that limits your visibility.
- Never leave valuables in plain sight; lock your car and take the keys.
- Even if you are rushed, look around before you exit your vehicle and stay alert to your surroundings.
In the event that one is a victim of a carjacking, officials advised the following:
- If the carjacker threatens you with a gun or other weapon, give up your car. Do not argue. Your life is worth more than your car. Get away from the area as quickly as possible.
- Try to remember what the carjacker looked like: sex, race, age, hair and eye color, special features, clothes. Also remember the description of any vehicles involved – color, make, model, license plate.
- Report the crime immediately to law enforcement.
As communities across the U.S. deal with increasing cases of carjackings and similar crimes, analysts are attempting to understand what's behind the uptick.
In a recent report from ABC News, Chris Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, noted that since the pandemic began, more people are wearing masks, and this is a situation that criminals may be taking advantage of.
"If we weren't in a pandemic and you saw a guy coming up to your car with a mask on, you probably would freak out and hit the gas pedal," he explained. "But nowadays, everyone's wearing masks. So there's this anonymity part of the pandemic that I think a lot of criminals are taking advantage of."
Herrmann added, "Carjacking is just lazy car thieves or violent car thieves. The normal car thief is going to steal your car while you’re working or sleeping and you’re not going to find out your car is stolen until six hours later."
Whatever the cause of the increase in carjackings may be, local officials are urging south Louisiana's citizens to follow the safety tips listed above. Doing so may increase one's own chance of either preventing or surviving a carjacking.
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