The Chicago Police Department has released new statistics showing crimes such as robbery and burglary went down last year, however, carjackings could be on pace to surpass a recent 19-year record.
More than 1,400 carjackings were reported across Chicago in all of 2020, which is more than double 2019's number and the highest since 2001. The city is on pace to see 1,800 carjackings this year, according to police.
Chicago-area law enforcement officials and prosecutors met on a video call Monday to discuss ways to combat the recent rise in carjackings.
On Jan. 21, CPD added 40 officers and four sergeants to carjacking task forces citywide, which put a dedicated carjacking team in each of the city's five detective areas, officials said. Additionally, the department is working with federal, state and county partners as well as youth outreach workers and community members to "find solutions to the root cause of the problem."
Eric Carter, first deputy superintendent with CPD, said the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new level of difficulty to apprehending suspects.
"It is very, very difficult for victims of carjackings to identify people right now due to everybody's wearing a mask due to COVID," he said.
Carter added that the majority of suspects officers encounter are 15 to 20 years old, with some being as young as 12 years old.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx told the group that her office must deal with juvenile and adult offenders differently.
"If you’ve got a 12-year-old or 11-year-old or 14-year-old engaging in this behavior, there is something wrong," she said.
Foxx said her office brings charges in 90 percent of adult carjacking cases and 80 percent of juvenile cases, but it's up to a judge to handle proper punishment for young people.
"The purpose is to hold them accountable," she said. "There’s a price to pay for what they do, but also how do we make sure that you don’t do this again?"
Also on Monday, CPD released new crime statistics for January, which showed that 201 shootings occurred during the month, the most since 2017.
In all, 51 people were killed in the city in January, which is up from 35 in 2020 and also a four-year high.
Speaking to law enforcement and prosecutors, community activist Steven DeJoie called for more cooperation and community participation.
"The community has to play a part, law enforcement has to play a part and government has to play a part, and the parents of these kids play a part, because they’re coming home to somebody at night," he said.
DeJoie said regulars citizens actively looking out for one another and helping police catch criminals will make a lasting difference.
"When you see the community come out on corners and stand there in solidarity, I think you’ll see the carjackers move on to other locations," he said.