Why I Carjack; Teens Say It All – CBS Chicago

By Irika Sargent and Carol Thompson

CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago is facing a carjacking crisis.

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The city is on track to surpass last year’s figures. You have heard from victims of these crimes. You have heard police and community leaders trying to prevent these crimes.

But, for the first time, you hear some of the younger auto thieves committing these crimes. They explain why they do it, how they do it and what it will take to get them to stop.

Three teens sat down with CBS 2’s Irika Sargent for a frank conversation.

We give them a voice, not to boast to take advantage of them, but to understand why they do it. Could what they say help keep you safe?

‘David’ is 14 years old.

“If they fight, I drag them out of the car and get on,” he said.

‘Nicole’ is 16 with a long list of carjackings on her record.

“I would say like six. I do not know. I do not count. (Laughs)”

The crimes

There could be hundreds of teens in Chicago looking for their next victims. We know from Chicago police data CBS 2 received as part of a public record request that police arrested 50 children aged 12 to 17 for auto theft. It was in the first four months of this year.

‘David’ was not arrested when we spoke with him over the summer. He told us he had no regrets after committing his first carjacking.

Anyone, anywhere, can be the victim of auto theft. It happens in dark alleys, busy parking lots, even a few steps from your front door.

The victims described their car thieves: “I could just feel his hands around my neck. And “… I leaned into the car and put the gun to my head.” And “… put a gun to my chest and said, ‘If you move I’ll kill you’.”

We have been following an upsurge in car hijackings over the past two years with many victims shocked by the age of their attackers.

The wife of a man who was gunned down while the teens did not understand how to drive his car said in tears: “I want my husband to come back. It’s the worst day of my life.

The daughter of an army veteran beaten to death by teenagers said: “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Chicago Police have already expanded their carjacking task force twice this year. However, without much success. At the end of September, the CPD had made arrests in only 73 of the 1,203 car hijackings. That’s an arrest rate of less than 6%.

Data on arrests show that 54% of those arrested for carjackings (January to April) were 17 or younger.

So far, you haven’t heard from young car thieves about what motivates them to commit these crimes, how they choose their targets, and if anything will make them stop.

CBS 2 has set up a room to speak with the three teenagers. CBS 2 set it up in such a way that we couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see each other. Nothing else was on the table.

‘David’ is 14 years old

Sergeant: “What attracted you?

‘David’: “The game. GTA.”

GTA is the long-running popular video game, Grand Theft Auto.

‘David’: “If you don’t have a car there, you can just take people’s cars. It sounded like fun. I wanted to do it.”

Sergeant: “Take me back that first time.” “

‘David’: “Me and my friends, three of us, we were walking and I said to them ‘Let’s take a car.’ We saw a man and we ran and cornered him, got in the car and drove off.

Sergeant: “Did he look scared, shocked to see someone so young doing it?” “

‘David’: “Yes.”

Sergeant: “Would you say it was easy?” “

‘David’: “Yes.”

He says getting the weapon was easy too.

‘David’: “People on Facebook and all that. They sell weapons.

Sergeant: “So you were able to buy a gun on Facebook?” “

‘David’: “Yes.”

Sergeant: “And do you find a lot of kids your age doing that?” “

‘David’: “Yes.”

‘Nicole’ is 16 years old

Carjacks ‘Nicole’ for different reasons.

‘Nicolas’: “I had a place to go and I had no way to get there. Sometimes I even sell a car, like buying a car just to make money.

She says being a girl works in her favor.

‘Nicolas’: “They probably wouldn’t expect a younger woman to do the hijacking.”

Sargent: “What types of weapons do you use when carjacking?”

‘Nicolas’: “A knife.”

Nicole has already been arrested. But, after a short stint in juvenile detention, she was back and forth to the hijacking.

Sergeant: “Is this something you always do?” “

‘Nicolas’: “Yes.”

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The community

“In my mind, there is no such thing as an unrecoverable child,” says Tyrone Muhammad.

He spent 21 years in prison for murder. And, before that, as a teenager, he said: “I did the drive-by. I did the carjacking, ”Muhammad said.

He now leads a mentoring group called Ex-Cons for Community & Social Change (ECCSC). The goal? To keep teens from ending up behind bars, using her own life as an uplifting tale. Does mentoring work?

“If you don’t replace their activity with something constructive, where they can see themselves earning a living, then you will never fix this problem,” Muhammad said.

And there is a lot of work to be done.

CBS2 tracks down car hijackings in Chicago. With 1,203 carjackings so far in 2021, this year is on track to surpass last year’s number of 1,414.

These two years together have already reported more carjackings than the previous three years combined. 2,617 versus 2,307. Almost all neighborhoods were affected.

The five hardest-hit communities so far this year:

  • Austin, 93
  • Garfield Park, 75
  • North Lawndale, 75
  • Humboldt Park, 47
  • South Shore, 44

“Nicole” often targets the Loop where there have been 11 carjackings this year. That’s two more than last year.

Sergeant: “What about this area that makes it a prime location? “

“Nicole” says it all depends on how people act: “They’ll think it’s safer for them… like they don’t have to worry about nobody pushing them down. “

Sergeant: “Have you ever hurt anyone?” “

‘Nicolas’: “No. No, it didn’t go that far.

However, she admits it can quickly escalate.

Sergeant: “People are losing their lives because of this. People are crippled because of it. Do you think of the victims?

‘Nicolas’: “I mean yes. But like then, you might not think.

Impact of distance learning

With the increase in car hijackings over the past two years, could distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic be partly to blame?

‘Nicole’ says, “Sometimes I went to school and sometimes I didn’t. Whether I feel it or not.

She adds, “If I was like going to school in person, then it would be less of me to think about going carjacking someone.”

“David” says he didn’t take distance learning “… that serious” either. He said he was bored. And, had more free time to commit carjacking.

And, the recently released first-day attendance figures from Chicago Public Schools confirm what “Nicole” and “David” have said.

For the 2020-2021 school year, day one attendance was 84%. Last year, CPS started the distance learning of the school year. The number of participants on the first day has fallen by 10% compared to previous years.

‘Chris’, 19

‘Chris’, now 19, committed his first carjacking when he was 15. It targets areas like the north side and “neighborhoods with low crime rates but who like rich people,” he said.

He also follows the police, looking for gaps in service, “Which area is the slowest for police cars to come.”

Chris said he stole drivers just to drive around town. But there is another fatal reason. What he calls hot cars are often used in drive-by shootings.

Sergeant: “Was there a time when you used a hot car to get revenge on an enemy or a gang?” “

“Chris”: “It’s a delicate subject. I was in a situation where a hot car was involved.

Chris said he recently quit carjacking. His mother found out what he was doing and kicked him out. He also became a father.

“She told me to pull yourself together and you can be there for your son.” That’s what really changed me, ”he said.

The past and the future

“Nicole” and “David” said their families were unfortunate examples.

“Seeing my brothers go in and out of jail for this stuff,” ‘Nicole’ said.

“I have family members who also do the same,” ‘David’ said. He says it played a role in his carjacking.

Muhammad tries to change the paths of teens by finding them jobs on construction sites, partnering with local businesses, pastors and lawmakers. But is it enough for kids like “David” and “Nicole” to be successful?

“Absolutely not. Not without the right mentors being positioned.” Because as soon as these young people are interrupted by feelings, anger, frustration with life, they go back to what they know, “said Muhammad.

While David ‘and’ Nicole ‘haven’t reached a point where they want to quit carjacking, they’re still talking about big dreams.

‘Nicole’ wants to be a doctor. “Work at UIC hospital or something like that. Take care of people or save lives, ”she said. What does she say to skeptical people? How would she show them that she wants to change? “Get your high school diploma and go to college,” she said.

“David” wants to own his own car dealership and thinks he can do it.

Reverend Robin Hood is familiar with stories of children like these. He mentors teenage carjackers and often associates with Muhammad.

“They are not mature enough to see the big picture, like we would like them to. They don’t see that they can kill someone. They can’t see, they can go to jail for the rest of their life, ”said Rev. Hood.

But, at this point, many do not agree with this. They want them locked up and they will have no sympathy for the younger children when they arrive with such a serious threat.

‘David’: “See, I won’t shoot them. If they are fighting, I like to get them out of the car and get in really fast.

Sergeant: It’s just having that thrill again, is that what would make you do it all over again?

‘David’: “Yes.”

This is not the end of the conversation. It’s a multi-layered problem with a lot of opinions. CBS 2 is committed in the coming weeks to explore the intricacies of this wave of carjackings, particularly those committed by teens like “David”, “Nicole” and “Chris”.

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You can also watch an in-depth Facebook chat about this story with CBS News’ Irika Sargent and Erin Moriarty here.

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