Posted on January 26, 2022

Cities See Large Increases in Carjackings During Pandemic

Peter Nickeas and Priya Krishnakumar, CNN, January 23, 2022

Carjackings have risen dramatically over the past two years in some of America’s biggest cities.

Just outside Chicago, a state senator’s car and other valuables were taken at gunpoint in December, and a group of children, one just 10 years old, carjacked more than a dozen people. A rideshare driver being carjacked shot his attackers earlier this month in Philadelphia. Last March, a 12-year-old in Washington, DC was arrested and charged with four counts of armed carjacking.

“The majority of it is young joyriders. They’re not keeping the cars. They’re jacking cars to commit another crime, typically more serious robberies or shootings, or joyriding around for the sake of social media purpose and street cred,” said Christopher Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s a disturbing trend.”

Comprehensive national data isn’t available because the FBI’s crime reporting system doesn’t track carjackings. But large cities that track the crime reported increases in 2020 and 2021, especially as the pandemic took hold of the country.

  • The number of carjackings quadrupled in New York City over the last four years, according to data released by the NYPD. The city recorded more than 500 carjackings in 2021, up from 328 in 2020, 132 in 2019, and 112 in 2018.
  • Carjackings in Philadelphia nearly quadrupled between 2015 and 2021, according to figures released by the city’s police department. They recorded more than 800 last year, up from about 170 in 2015.
  • In New Orleans, there were 281 carjackings last year, up from 105 in 2018, the earliest year of available data. The city has also seen a string of carjackings this year, with NOPD reporting 39 as of January 21.
  • More than 1,800 carjackings were reported in Chicago last year, the most of any large city, according to data released by police departments to CNN. Chicago’s 2021 tally was the most on record over the last 20 years. Carjackings had been steadily declining in the city after 2001, hitting a low of 303 in 2014, but began to tick upward before skyrocketing to 1,400 in 2020 following the onset of the pandemic. Last year saw more than five times as many carjackings as in 2014.


Chicago’s clearance rate for carjackings is low, and has further declined during the pandemic. According to the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, only 11% of carjacking offenses resulted in an arrest in 2020, down from 20% in 2019. Just 4.5% of offenses resulted in charges approved by the State Attorney’s Office.

Chicago, a city of 2.7 million people, recorded more than three times as many carjackings as New York, where the population is almost three times higher. {snip}


Many cities do not have data on carjackings readily available, as police departments will often categorize these crimes as robberies or assaults. It’s difficult to understand the scope of the problem at a national level because the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, which law enforcement agencies voluntarily submit their crime data to, does not track carjackings.

However, more agencies are beginning to track carjackings separately. Dallas began classifying these crimes separately from robberies in their data last year and reported 453 carjackings in 2021. The Metropolitan Police Department in DC last year created a task force dedicated to addressing carjacking and auto thefts. Reports of auto thefts are also up across the country and are more reliably tracked than carjackings.


More detailed reporting also makes it easier to spot trends and patterns — in its 2021 report, “How the pandemic is accelerating carjackings in Chicago,” the Crime Lab found that the majority of carjackings were concentrated in the south and west sides of the city, where gun violence is disproportionately high. The majority of the victims of carjackings were Black or Hispanic.


Shifting attitudes toward the juvenile justice system, and Covid-related restrictions aimed at reducing the number of people in county jails or juvenile facilities, has created a situation where accused criminals who’d normally be held in custody are free while awaiting trial, experts told CNN.