With the recent dramatic increase of carjackings in Chicago, rideshare drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft have become understandably frightened, wondering if they could be the next victims.
In mid-January, the Chicago Police Department issued an alert warning of seven several armed carjackings targeting rideshare drivers between Dec. 28 and Jan. 17.
In each incident, drivers were summoned to an address, and when they arrived, suspects attacked them and demanded their vehicles, police stated.
"Every day, I have to watch myself, because it's dangerous, you know," said driver Umberto Serrano.
Following numerous instances throughout the city, the Independent Drivers Guild, a group that represents rideshare and delivery drivers, launched a driver safety campaign to "demand action from the transportation network/delivery app companies and lawmakers."
"Drivers are riding around right now with targets on their backs," said Steven Everett, a rideshare driver and IDG organizer.
IDG has proposed a number of measures to protect drivers, but also passengers. The suggestions include a mandatory mask-wearing selfie when ordering a ride, a panic button, in-vehicle cameras and credit card verification.
Lyft has already reportedly rolled out panic buttons for drivers in Chicago.
Everett emphasized that not only rideshare drivers, but food delivery drivers are also at risk.
"They will order some food, have the driver come to them," Everett said. "The driver gets out of the car, gives them the food, and then they carjack them right there... take everything they have."
IDG also claims that "offenders are easily able to exploit a lack of security protocols with the apps themselves."
"I have to make money, so I just keep my doors locked, pay attention to what's going on around me," said rideshare driver Tracy Thomas.
Chicago-area law enforcement officials and prosecutors met on a virtual call Monday night to discuss ways to combat the 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."