In a year when Chicago struggled with violent crime, 2020 came to a close with carjackings more than doubling in the city over 12 months to a total unseen in nearly two decades, reports the Chicago Tribune. Carjackings rose about 135 percent, to 1,415 in 2020 from 603 in 2019. The 2020 tally was the highest figure recorded since 2001, when Chicago logged only slightly more with 1,422. The spike came at a time when gun violence also skyrocketed as the city struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic and experienced unrest following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Experts said both likely influenced crime totals as the economy suffered and community trust in the police was severely eroded.
There are likely a variety of reasons for the dramatic rise specifically in carjackings, including the general public’s use of masks for coronavirus protection, enabling criminals to conceal their faces without raising alarm. Gangs are often to blame, because they sometimes use stolen vehicles as they commit more crimes. “The gangs are using these vehicles because they feel they can’t be traced,” said South Chicago Captain Michael Murphy, whose patrol district saw carjackings jump in 2020 to 97 from 36 the year before. “They can do their crimes, whether it be shootings or whatever it is, and then dump the car.” There may have been more carjackings in 2020 than the city’s figures show. Retired Chicago Fire Department Lt. Dwain Williams was shot and killed in early December when assailants tried to carjack him near a popcorn shop, an incident categorized as a homicide instead of a carjacking. Later in the month, 33-year-old Shuai Guan was fatally shot near his home after a carjacker demanded the key to his SUV, a crime also logged as a homicide.