Carjacking, don’t be a victim

  • Published
  • By Nick Zallas
  • Installation Antiterrorism Office
In my series of Antiterrorism Awareness articles, I'm constantly looking for topics that help us to be aware of what is going on around us and how to protect ourselves, family and friends.

The topic I want to mention comes from a U.S. Department of State document that profiles one of the fastest growing and most prevalent crimes in many parts of the world: carjacking. Most carjackings occur solely for the purpose of stealing a car and is a crime without any political agenda that specifically targets Americans.

Be familiar with the methods, tricks and locations commonly used by carjackers.


The first step in avoiding an attack is to stay alert. Carjacking can occur almost anywhere, from high crime areas to residential areas, to less traveled roads to congested traffic. If possible, avoid these areas and situations. If not, take the following steps to prevent an attack.

If in traffic, look around for possible avenues of escape. Leave at least one-half of your vehicle length between you and the vehicle in front so you can maneuver easily if necessary. Always make sure you can see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you.

When stopped, use your rear and side view mirrors to remain aware of your surroundings. Keep your doors locked and the windows up to increase your safety and make it more difficult for an attacker to surprise you.

Accidents are one ruse used by attackers to control their victim. The following are the more common attack methods:

The Bump: An attacker bumps the victim's vehicle from behind. The victim gets out of their vehicle to assess the damage and exchange insurance information. While preoccupied, the victim's vehicle is taken by an accomplice.

If you are bumped from behind or if someone tries to alert you to a problem with your vehicle, pull over only when you reach a safe public place.

Good Samaritan: An attacker may stage what appears to be an auto accident and may pretend to be injured. When the victim stops to assist the injured person, the vehicle is then taken by an accomplice.

Think before stopping to assist in an accident. It may be safer to call 911 and report the location, number of cars involved, and any injuries you observed.

The Ruse: A vehicle behind the victim starts flashing its lights or the driver waves to get the victim's attention. The attacker tries to indicate that there is a problem with the victim's car. When the victim pulls over, the vehicle is taken by an accomplice.

The Trap: Carjackers follow the victim home. When the victim pulls into his or her driveway and while waiting for the gate to open, the attacker pulls up behind and blocks the victim's car.

If you are driving into a gated community, call ahead to have the gate opened. Otherwise wait on the street until the gate is open before turning in and possibly getting trapped.

In all cases keep your cell phone with you and immediately alert someone regarding your situation.

During many carjacking situations, the attackers are interested only in the vehicle. Try to stay calm. Do not stare at the attacker as this may be interpreted as aggressive and cause them to harm you.

There are two options during an attack: non-resistive, non-confrontational behavior and resistive or confrontational behavior.

Your reaction should be based on several factors: type of attack, environment, the mental state of attacker, number of attackers, weapons and whether there are children present.

In the non-confrontational situation, you would: give up the vehicle freely, listen carefully to all directions, make no quick or sudden movements that the attacker could construe as a counter attack, always keeps your hands in plain view. Tell the attacker of every move in advance; make the attacker aware if children are present. The attacker may be focused only on the driver and not know there are children in the car.

In a resistive or confrontational response, you would make a decision to escape or attack the carjacker. Before doing so, consider: the mental state of the attacker, possible avenues of escape, the number of attackers, weapons used.

In most instances, it is probably safest to give up your vehicle.

When reporting a crime, describe the event. What time of day did it occur? Where did it happen? How did it happen? Who was involved?

Describe the attacker. Without staring, try to note height, weight, scars or other marks, hair and eye color, the presence of facial hair, build, and complexion.

Describe the attacker's vehicle. If possible get the vehicle license number, color, make, model and year, as well as any marks and personal decorations.

The golden rule for descriptions is to give only that information you absolutely remember. If you are not sure, don't guess.

Finally, avoidance is the best way to prevent an attack. Use your judgment to evaluate the situation and possible reactions. Know safe areas to go to in an emergency. Always carry your cell phone or radio.

Non-confrontation is often the best response. The objective is not to thwart the criminal but to survive without injury.

Remember: You can protect yourself against carjacking -- one of the fastest growing crimes in the world

Department of State Publication No. 10863 Bureau of Diplomatic Security Reprinted August 2002 .