CHICAGO (CBS) — Anticipating a possible spike in carjackings in Chicago this fall, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said the department will be “doubling down” on its carjacking task force.
Earlier this year, CPD added 40 officers to its carjacking unit, which works with suburban departments and federal law enforcement agencies.
“As you might know, last fall we had a spike in vehicle hijackings that carried over into the next year, into this year. So we want to try to anticipate some of that maybe happening again this year, and add more resources in anticipation of likely a continued spike in carjackings,” Brown said Monday afternoon.
The superintendent did not provide details on the plan to further expand the carjacking task force beyond the extra officers that were added in January.
More than 1,000 carjackings have been reported in Chicago so far this year, often carried out by groups of teenagers. That comes on the heels of more than 1,400 carjackings in 2020, which had been the highest yearly total in nearly two decades.
Brown said, so far this year, Chicago Police have arrested 895 people in connection to carjackings; including 215 arrests for vehicular hijacking charges, 251 arrests for possession of a stolen vehicle charges, and 429 arrests for criminal trespass to a vehicle charges. The superintendent said the 215 vehicular hijacking arrests are a 79% increase over 2020.
Chicago Police Sgt. Peter Amelio is on the department’s vehicular hijacking task force, fighting the trend. Amelio spoke to CBS 2’s Tara Molina last week.
“The biggest challenge that we have is these offenders, they don’t stop,” he said.
What is the task force doing? What are they up against? And what’s it going to take to put an end to this?
Molina asked those questions and more to those tasked with fighting Chicago’s carjacking crisis, putting the pieces together, going after the offenders, and often times connecting one crime to another, one offender to another.
What so many want to know: is it enough?
In 19 years on the force, Amelio has a background in gangs and investigations, and is now leading eight officers on one of the four new teams formed in January specifically dedicated to rising carjackings.
“Some of them are really just doing it for fun,” he said.
When it comes to the crime, Amelio said there are three answers to the why question.
“They compare it to playing Grand Theft Auto,” he said.
Amelio said some carjackers take vehicles to use in other crimes.
“We’ve had people admit to us they sold a vehicle for $4,500,” he said.
We know teens are behind many of the carjackings in Chicago. Its something we’ve been working to put a number on, but because they’re underage, we’ve had to file public records requests to get the data.
Amelio said the average age they see for carjackers is between 14 and 25.
“We’ve had them as young as 11,” he said.
Often, they are repeat offenders or, he says, ultimately connected to other crimes.
“There are kids that we haven’t seen come back, but then there are kids with long rap sheets,” he said.
Molina: “What do you say to people who are scared, who are seeing this spike and feel they CPD isn’t doing enough?”
Amelio: “I would tell those people that CPD definitely cares. We have officers and detectives here whose friends and family have been carjacked.”
While Amelio said he doesn’t get discouraged fighting the crime, he acknowledged the numbers are rough; plain and simple.
The task force is in place for a reason, with more carjackings reported in Chicago in 2020 and 2021 than the previous four years combined.
Sot what’s it going to take to curb the trend?
“Well, we’ve only been doing this since January. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take the offenders learning there are consequences for their actions,” Amelio said.
The task force doesn’t work alone. They’re working closely with the Cook County Sheriff, Illinois State Police, U.S. Homeland Security, and departments throughout the suburbs and neighboring states.
Asked why so many carjackers are so young, Amelio said he can only speculate when it comes to age, but he also said they work closely with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, and provide all the information they can about these cases.