The auto thieves are working overtime in Detroit. So much so, that not only do people fear getting out of their car to purchase gas, the city is now referred to as “Carjack City.”
Last year, Detroit police reported 720 carjackings in the city that has less than 700,000 people.
With all the bad news about the city of Detroit in the news lately, the decline could be the result of people leaving the city in droves. But the thefts still exceed the carjackings in some comparably sized U.S. cities.
Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of a Detroit nonprofit, was at a gas station on an October morning when she ran inside for aspirin. When she got back inside her SUV, just as she was closing the door she saw a carjacker shove his gun inside.
She screamed and jumped out of the vehicle. The carjacker jumped in and drove off. Three other customers gave chase in their vehicles. One caught up to the SUV and got shot in the leg by the carjacker, who was later arrested.
Now, Buckman has changed her behavior and says, she tries not to pump gas at all.
“If the night catches me, I won’t pump gas in the city,” she said. “Or I’ll call somebody to meet me.”
Gas stations are beefing up their security platforms in an attempt to protect customers – some are even adding extra cameras. And the authorities have galvanized a special unit to go after suspects, and are now publicizing captured carjackers by plastering their photos on billboards.
“You need to catch these people and make a good example of them,” said Mousa Bazzi, who owns a Mobil station in a semi-desolate neighborhood bordering Detroit’s east riverfront. He keeps his business well-lit and continually has two to four employees inside to ensure “there’s always an extra hand or two” in case of trouble.
Ironically, improvements in vehicle security – such as cars with anti-theft equipment, GPS and keyless ignitions are seen as the cause for the carjacking uprise.
These enhanced security measures are said to make it difficult or impossible for thieves to steal parked cars, which leads them to target vehicles that are occupied, according to Jonathan Parnell of Detroit’s auto-theft squad.
If you’re looking for a bit of good news here, the carjacking numbers are going down. In 2011 there was 850 carjackings reported, and 1,231 in 2008.
Read more at Huffington Post.