Sheriff Wants Real-Time Tracking As Cook County Carjacking Up 40%

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CHICAGO — Dr. Stephanie Davis, a retired Air Force physician and Georgia native, moved back to Chicago in July after falling in love with the city while attending medical school at Northwestern University, she said.

On the morning of Sept. 17, Davis was on her way back to her condo in the Loop from a friend’s fitness center in South Holland when she stopped at a gas station at a busy intersection in Harvey.

After buying a drink and walking back to her Porche truck, one of a group of men or boys that she had noticed standing at the edge of the parking lot forced his way into her car after putting a gun to her head and shoving her to the ground, Davis told reporters Thursday.

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“It appeared he didn’t know how to start my truck, so I ran to the window and started yelling at him to get out of my vehicle. He placed the gun up to the window, and I backed away. He finally figured out how to start the vehicle but could not figure out how to put it in reverse,” Davis said. “Once he did so, he peeled off. He stopped along the raid and the remaining group that had been standing with him got into the vehicle and they drove away.”

The carjacking launched a two-week crime spree involving Davis’ truck — even though it contained a tracking device that could have located it immediately.

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Speaking at a Cook County Sheriff’s Office news conference, Davis said a clerk at the gas station had witnessed her being carjacked and was on the phone with police when she walked back into the store in tears.

“Unfortunately, the police response was very, very delayed,” she said.

After eventually speaking to an officer, Davis said she called her car’s dealership in an effort to track it down but was by staff that they were unable to do so.

“Later that day, I tried again with the auto company and the dealership but I again was told the car couldn’t be tracked,” she said.

Within hours of her carjacking, someone using her car had carried out another aggravated vehicular hijacking in Elmhurst, according to Davis. She said only learned about it because some of her stolen property had been found strewn at the scene.

Her car was also used in an ATM-related crime in Riverdale, where authorities asked her to sign a complaint to allow charges to be filed against one person taken into custody after the car eluded capture.

The sheriff’s office got involved with Davis’ case because it spanned multiple jurisdictions. Davis said she and officers with the sheriff’s office worked the phones with various contacts at Porche and eventually were able to get her truck tracked.

“What I think it was was a combination of working with the sheriff’s office — and me using more forceful language,” Davis said.

Davis still does not have her car back. While the vehicle was found within a few hours of being tracked, she said, it took nearly a week to process it for evidence before being released to a dealership. She expects to be able to get it back around Christmas.

“Improving quick access to tracking information will be beneficial for countless victims who are trying to get their lives back after a horrific trauma like carjacking. My case is a good example, because if the tracking and recovery had occurred sooner, there were would be less victims associated with my vehicle,” she said.

“This carjacking is also a gift that keeps on giving, as I’m still receiving citations in the mail from traffic light cameras, toll plazas and other infractions committed while they had possession of my truck.”


(Cook County Sheriff’s Office)

Carjackings in Cook County are up by about 43 percent so far in 2021 compared with last year, with 2,019 carjackings reported in the first 11 months of the year, according to the sheriff’s office.

The top-five models targeted by thieves, which are also some of the most common makes, are the Toyota Camry, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Nissan Altima, the Chevy Malibu and the Honda CR-V, according to the sheriff’s office.

Nearly two-third of hijacked vehicles are 2015 or newer model years, and most such cars can be tracked.

Sheriff Tom Dart has asked automakers to create a 24-hour-a-day hotline for law enforcement and carjacking victims to request the location of stolen cars.

Last week, he sent a letter to chiefs of 11 car manufacturers asking for help improving tracking

“In the longer term, we hope that every car sold will have the capability to be tracked and safely disabled in real time on a platform accessible to your customer or your company if the victim is unable to assist,” it said. “We also encourage you, based on our experience, to continue to develop internal monitors and safeguards that could assist in identifying perpetrators and would defeat criminal efforts to disable telemetry and clone radio frequency devices like key fobs.”

Speaking Thursday, Dart said the carmakers have acknowledged his letter and he was ready to schedule meetings and was hoping for a “minimum buy-in.” The sheriff said he was open to working with them but also “not a stranger to suing people” as a last resort.

“I’ll tell you what, I am not buying into a series of meetings over the course of the next eight months so we can get to know each other — really not interested in that,” Dart said. “I want to have some meetings, we’re going to have agendas, we’re going to work through them quickly and if that’s not something they’re interested in, oh my God, I’m really good at going in the other direction.”

Dart said that cutting down the time frame between a carjacking and tracking stolen vehicles is key. He said he has seen some results from an anti-carjacking task force made up of members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, which has led to cars being recovered at double the previous rate and in half the time.

“What does that do? That makes it easier to prosecute. It’s more likely the person that took the car is in it still,” he said. “It also decreases the likelihood that car’s going to be used in multiple other crimes.”

The longer a car is stolen, the less likely it is for a victim to be able to identify the person who stole their car, and the more likely it will be that additional people besides the owner will leave behind forensic evidence in the stolen car.

If any charges are filed in such cases, they are usually limited to possession of a stolen vehicle, a class 2 felony, or trespassing in a vehicle, which is a misdemeanor.

In addition to his Dec. 3 letter to automakers, the sheriff on Thursday announced more immediate measures aimed at reducing carjacking in the county.

The sheriff’s announced his office has created a “consent-to-release-data form” for vehicle-owners that will make it easier for law enforcement to gain access to real-time location data of trackable vehicles.

And, in another effort to deter thieves, the sheriff’s office has also created a new sticker for car owners to affix to their vehicles to announce that it is trackable.

Patch

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December 9, 2021 at 02:36PM

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