Tips: Reduce Your Risk Of Carjacking

Auto theft is the simple stealing of a vehicle with no threats or force used against the victim, usually a vehicle is stolen when it is unoccupied. Carjacking is a robbery during which a criminal uses force, or the threat of force, to take a vehicle from a person possessing it. Carjackers are much more dangerous than the average auto thief and many will not hesitate to harm someone who fights them over the vehicle.

Your car is not worth your life. If someone tries to take your vehicle by threatening you with harm, surrender the vehicle. Just focus on your own safety, and on being a good witness to assist police with the investigation. The Seattle Police Department offers tips to reduce your risk of carjacking.

Understanding Carjacking
It is often a crime of opportunity -- thief searching for the most vulnerable prey. Sometimes it's part of another crime.

Car thieves may find it easier to steal a car while the owner is there -- with the keys in the ignition -- than to break into a car, especially if the car has an alarm.

Cars equipped with sophisticated, built-in alarm systems and theft-deterrent devices are becoming harder to steal.

Cars, especially luxury models, provide quick cash for drug users and other criminals.

Carjacking may be a rite of passage, an initiation act, or just a thrill for some.

Opportunities That Carjackers Look For
Intersections controlled by traffic lights or stop signs.

Parking garages, shopping malls and grocery stores.

Self-service gas stations and car washes.

Automated teller machines (ATM's).

Residential driveways and streets as people get in and out of their cars.

Highway exit and entry ramps, or other places where drivers slow down or stop.

Before Entering Your Car
Be alert to any activity near your car. Pay attention to your surroundings.

When approaching your car, have your key in your hand, and check the back seat before you get in.

If someone is loitering near your unoccupied car as you approach it, keep walking until the person leaves.

Be wary of people asking for directions or handing out flyers. Trust your instincts -- if something makes you feel uneasy, get into the car quickly, lock the doors and drive away.

When You Are In Your Car
Keep your doors and windows locked, no matter how short the distance or how "safe" the neighborhood.

When you're coming to a stop, leave enough space to maneuver around other cars. If you sense trouble, this will allow you the room needed to get away.

If a suspicious-looking person approaches your car, drive away carefully. In extreme situations, you might even consider going through a traffic light, as long as you can do so without causing an accident.

Drive in the inside (center) lane to make it more difficult for would-be carjackers to approach your car.

Don't stop to assist a stranger whose car has broken down. Instead, help by driving to the nearest phone or using your cell phone to call the police for help.

Always be aware of your surroundings. If a situation does not seem safe to you as you come to a stop, or are about to park, drive away to analyze the situation. You can always come back later, but trust your initial instincts.

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 view, even if the car is locked. Put them in the trunk or out of sight.

Try to park in a garage with an attendant. Leave only the ignition key, with no personal identification.

Even if you are rushed, look around before you get out and stay alert to your surroundings.

If It Happens To You
If a carjacker threatens you with a gun or other weapon, give up your car. Don't argue. Your life is worth far more than a car.

Get away from the area as quickly as possible.

Notice and remember what the carjacker looked like -- sex, race, age, hair and eye color, special features, clothes and anything specific or unusual like an accent.

Report the crime immediately to the police.

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