CPD's 14th District teamed up with 1st and 32nd Wards: Carjackings Forum


Sergeant Michael Edens, CAPS 14th District

The many sides of Chicago's carjacking dilemma were the focus of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) 14th District's online webinar Monday night, Jan. 25, with more than 200 participants. 

Moderator Michael Edens, 14th District CAPS Sergeant, opened the meeting, defining some terms, followed by the 14th's Commander Elizabeth Collazo who presented some statistics followed by news about preventative measures being taken by the CPD. 

Statements by 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack and 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata were followed by comments from participants.

The Crimes
The rash of crimes regarding vehicles falls into two groupings: Vehicular Hijacking (carjacking), aggravated and non-aggravated, and motor vehicle crimes, such as vehicle theft and vehicle trespassing. 

Vehicular Hijacking (carjackings), which is a robbery, is when an offender(s) takes someone's vehicle with force. If a weapon is involved it is aggravated-carjacking, without it is non-aggravated carjacking.

Under motor vehicle thefts, a vehicle is taken with the owner not present. That would include taking a car left running or a car with keys in the ignition. 

There has been a series of thefts in Wicker Park which occurred because the car was left running while the driver ran inside. 

According to Edens, offenders have been committing vehicle thefts then using the stolen car to commit other crimes such as carjackings. 


Commander Elizabeth Collazo, 14th District

The Victims
In 2019 the City experienced 603 carjackings. In 2020 there were 1,400 (of which 58 were in the 14th District). As of Jan. 24 this year 186 carjackings have occurred and 11 have been in the 14th District. 

This year a major target in the 14th District are ride-share drivers. 

"There are several emotional and psychological things that happen when one is a victim like this, it can cause a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," explained Edens. "Victims should reach out for help, it is not their fault." 

"Even one carjacking is too many," said the Commander. "If there are any victims here tonight, I am sorry that you have to be reliving this." 

There are resources people should use, if they have had this type of trauma, commented Collazo. They may be located through a call to 3-1-1. 

She and others on the call, several who have experienced the trauma, all expressed that solutions must be found. Others should not have to endure this type of confrontation. It is a crime that cannot be easily forgotten. 

One person online said that feeling safe is vital. Without that, the population of the City will spiral down, property tax collections will diminish and Chicago will not be a vibrant place to live and work. 

Sergeant Edens provided tips for how to be safe:

  • Take your keys with you
  • Turn your vehicle off
  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • If someone is approaching you be aware of them
  • Ensure all doors are locked prior to leaving 
  • Report suspicious activity immediately 
  • If you are confronted by an assailant remain calm  
  • If there are children in the car and offender is taking your car, tell them there is a child on board
  • Remember any unique physical characteristics (scars, limp, acne, teeth, etc...) 
  • Never pursue a fleeing assailant, provide the information to the police 
  • If approached by a witness to the incident, request contact information  
  • Dial 9-1-1 immediately and remain on scene when possible   

The Offenders
Those taking the vehicles are mainly juveniles between 15 and 20 years old, said Edens. They look at these crimes as those of opportunity. According to Collazo, "Some have referred to their behavior as playing a real-life video game. 

"This is not a game and it is not a joke. What these juveniles don't realize is the impact on the victims." 

CPD Actions
"CPD has committed to do more. There have been 40 officers and four supervisors dedicated solely to a carjacking task force. They are in communication with the State, County and Federal agencies to help curb these crimes and assist with prosecution and intervention." 

On a District level, the "smart rooms" (tech rooms) are filled with monitoring devices that provide information about what is happening on the streets, then distributed to the officers on the street. 

Collazo is also utilizing roll calls each day in which detectives are also sharing information about all carjacking incents that have occurred in the 14th. Detectives will also be advising officers on the importance of writing informative case reports to assist with ongoing investigations which will ultimately lead to successful prosecutions. "Information sharing is crucial," she emphasized. 

"TAC officers have been deployed to the southeast region of the District, where most of the carjackings have occurred. Also deployed are officers from the critical incidence response team as well as beat officers to patrol these areas. They provide high visibility, directed patrol and engage in positive community interactions because, of course, we need the communities assistance to help out. 

"If you see something, please say something." 

One of CPD's license plate readers is to be deployed to the 14th. This is a squad car with a camera that captures an image of a license plate which is run through the Secretary of State's database, identifying any stolen vehicles. 

This action is to locate stolen cars that come into the district to be used in a carjacking, or any other crime. 

With the expressway being a perfect entrance and escape route, to the 14th district, there more high visibility patrols will be at the on and off ramps. 

Up in the sky, a helicopter will also be deployed, if officers cannot go in pursuit of offenders. Their task is to locate a stolen vehicle so the officers on the ground can go to the site. 

The 14th has also reached out to the rideshare companies to make sure they are helping safe guard their drivers and also to encourage them to share their camera data of incidents. 

CAPS officers have also be handing out flyers for ride-share businesses to warn their drivers of these issues in the District. 

And finally, the operations changes will include detectives assigned to the carjacking task force. They will be deployed to the scene of a carjacking as they do in cases of shootings and homicides. 

The commander encouraged everyone to follow 14th on Twitter

Collazo emphasized that safety "takes a village."  While CPD is an important part of addressing the problems of the carjackings, much more is needed for a healthy "village." 

"We all need to work together…CPD, our State, County and Federal agencies as well as parents, teachers, neighbors, pastors, intervention and diversion programs to help change the behavior of these criminals and juveniles." 

Aldermanic Input
Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward Alderman, pointed out that one thing that came out of a recent safety committee meeting was funding for more license plate readers. "We are expending additional dollars on cameras for spots along the highway as well as the entry and exit ramps. Working with Sergeant Edens, we are also moving one of our pods at Damen over to Wood and Armitage for the moment. 

Waguespack also explained that the City is looking at changing out one of the helicopters for a more efficient and less costly version. 

He also pointed out that these offenders need social media. "Without a social media presence, they can't show that they have committed these crimes. So the police along with the federal partners are monitoring their social media." 

He went on to explain that such actions are moving toward bringing State and Federal attorneys together to keep repeat offenders off the streets. 

Waguespack expressed his disappointment that neither Judge Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court nor anyone from his office attended the City Council's Public Safety Committee hearing on carjacking last Friday. 

He also said that the whole issue of these crimes has to do with youth intervention. "I think the City is looking at how do deal with some of these younger juvenile individuals a lot more than they have in the past. 

"Some of these carjackers have been 12, 13 and 14, so the City is trying to target some of those youth and make sure they are providing other services for them. The most we can do on this end is to make sure we are working closely with our Commander in 14 and surrounding Districts to make sure we coordinate with all our neighbors, get the information out and follow the lead of what the officers are trying to do out there." 

Daniel La Spata, 1st Ward Alderman, said there is not a "magic bullet" that is going to reduce carjackings in the 14th District and the City. Part of it is what we try to do with the 14th District on a weekly basis. Putting out what information they want us to share relative to how these crimes can be prevented like working to move a pod camera. We are working with them to move one to the six corners at Milwaukee, Damen and North. 

"Beyond that we are trying to hold businesses accountable. We know that far too many of these incidents have been tied to abuse of ride sharing systems like Lyft and Uber who for too long were really hesitant to get involved to make sure they are taking constant steps to keep their drivers safe." 

La Spata continued by pointing out that there have been issues that have not supported the youth as they should have and that has to be addressed, keeping them out of their current life style.  

"To see any crime go up 250% from one year to another, we cannot ignore the destabilizing and traumatizing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay at home order." 

Attendee Questions
Many participants' questions focused on the lack of consequences for the offenders. Since many are juveniles, they are not being charged with a felony.

Some expressed that the issue is with the State's Attorney's office while others claimed the problem is with the judges. 

While several people wanted more statistics, it was made clear that because juvenile records are sealed, statistics are not available for them. 

It also appears that CPD's reporting mixes the vehicular hijacking stats with motor thefts, causing some confusion

Next Carjacking Forum
Michele Smith, 43rd Ward Alderperson will be having a Special Community Safety Forum on Carjackings on Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. Commanders from the 18th and 19th District as well as CPD's Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan and representatives of the States Attorney's Office will be part of the webinar. 

You may register online.






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