For the second week in a row, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown held a news conference with suburban police chiefs to tout the success of a regional carjacking task force.
Brown said carjackings are down 20% in the first two months of the year, but the data also shows that the rate of arrests is down too. And carjackings are still more than three times higher than before the pandemic began.
Brown said three more suburban departments in the last week have joined a the list of 21 agencies sharing data on carjackings in the Chicago area: Forest Park, Oak Park and Berkeley.
Brown said CPD conducted its 21st task force mission Tuesday night, an effort involving a hundred officers.
“Our joint missions are doing what they’re supposed to do,” Brown said. “But the prevalence of vehicular hijackings in our community must have our full attention. We want every resident to know that we are fully committed to visibility, engagement and this great collaboration.”
Last week, Brown announced that the task force would operate around the clock, but the news conference was overshadowed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot linking the surge in carjackings to the shutdown of schools at the start of the pandemic.
Carjackings in Chicago have dropped from this time last year, from 324 to 262 through Feb. 14, according to the latest public police data. But carjackings are still higher than in 2020, when there were 133 carjackings over the same period, and about 3.5 times higher than in 2019, when there were 71 during the same time.
Chicago police have made 182 arrests so far this year for carjacking-related crimes, Brown said. Thirty-five arrests have been for vehicular highjacking, 51 for possession of a stolen motor vehicle and 96 for criminal trespass, according to a police spokesman.
But public arrest data from the police department shows only 11 charged with carjacking so far this year, though the data may only include adults charged.
That public data also shows that the rate of arrests for carjackings has been on the decline since 2019. Only 4% of carjackings in Chicago this year through Feb. 8 had an arrest, compared to 6.2% during the same period in 2021, 7.7% in 2020 and 10.7% in 2019.
Asked about the falling arrest rate, Brown once again blamed the courts that he said were too willing to release juveniles accused of carjacking.
“We really need to have strong debates about our juvenile courts addressing recidivism,” Brown said. “That’s one aspect of why we haven’t seen the significant drop.” He said children entering the juvenile justice system need more services and stronger conditions of release.
Brown said about half of all people arrested in carjackings were juveniles and offered some recent examples:
- A 14-year-old boy was arrested hours after carjacking a man at gunpoint early Monday in the 400 block of West 31st Street in Bridgeport.
- A 15-year-old was charged with carjacking a 62-year-old man at gunpoint Sunday in the 500 block of West 78th Street. He was arrested hours later in Calumet City.
- A juvenile was arrested for carjacking someone with a gun Saturday in the 8600 block of South Wallace. A license plate-reading camera tipped off cops to the location of the car and the person was arrested, Brown said.
- A 17-year-old boy was charged with carjacking someone on April 14, 2021 in the 1200 block of North Hoyne. Police collected blood on the vehicle and arrested the teen on Sunday.
The regional carjacking task force was formed last March, and includes the Cook County sheriff’s office, Illinois State Police, the FBI and suburban police departments.