Make It Through With Your Life
You've undoubtedly heard the word "carjacking" a zillion times, but do you really know what it means? Or what goes down? Or how to survive it? Let's tackle question number one: It's basically a Brangelina'd version of car and hijacking. Loosely defined, it's when your Jeep is taken away forcibly with the threat of violence. And what goes down? They jack your Jeep. So how do you survive it? Glad you asked, because we asked security expert (better known in that world as "The Security Sensei") Jordan Frankel of Global Security Experts (globalsecurityexperts.com) to help us decode the answer.
• What makes someone want to carjack? "Very seldom a car or individual is jacked for a joy ride," Jordan explained. "It's money-motivated." Typically the bad guy who's looking to steal your Jeep is trying to fuel a drug habit and wants "easy" money. But that doesn't mean it's only cash he wants. He will try to grab any contents of value in your Jeep—or possibly the vehicle itself, then take it directly to a scrapyard. "Sometimes they sell an $80,000 vehicle for just $200-$300," Jordan pointed out.
• What carjackers also want is someone who will make doing the crime simple. Say, tourists. Carjackers know tourists may be distracted, lost, or sightseeing and those telltale signs are in addition to the telltale-est of them all, anything that gives away that it's a rental car. Are you a texter while driving? Stop doing that. But also, stop doing that because a carjacker will notice you're distracted and possibly target you as well. And women are often more susceptible, simply because they are perceived as physically weaker than men.
• Carjackers like to hang out where the cars are, as you'd suspect. Notably, busy streets and intersections. But be extra aware in parking lots, like a restaurant or mall, and especially during the holidays when you're lugging around gifts. (When will you learn to shop online?)
• Popular vehicles to carjack? Good news: Jeeps aren't as hot as, say, Honda Civics and Accords; those cars have parts way more in demand. And carjackers are making a helluva lot more cash parting them out than trying to sell 'em whole. But that doesn't mean you're off the hook: Your Jeep could still get 'jacked.
• Is there a carjacking hotspot other than the places mentioned above? "A lot of carjackings take place in Miami," Jordan noted. "There are tons of tourists in Miami and the streets are very populated; there's a lot of noise, so if a carjacker runs up to a car, he might not stand out in that situation."
• But be aware of your surroundings at all times, everywhere, in every state—not just while driving, or in Miami, or in a Honda Civic/Accord. Park where it's well lit and populated. Don't be afraid to ask a security guard to escort you to your Jeep, especially if your hands are full from that stuff you didn't buy online. And always drive with your doors locked.
• OK, you didn't lock up. There's now a gun pointed at you or a guy at your window making threats. Don't be a hero—give up the vehicle. "Cars are replaceable, lives are not," reminded The Sensei.
• But what if the carjacker forces you to ride along, either as driver or occupant? If he's going at a slow speed, you could try to flee—"You don't want to be kidnapped from a heavily populated area and be taken to a desolate area," said Jordan. "Fight for your life at all expense if you feel you will be kidnapped."
• Jordan has a client who was carjacked and forced to stay behind the wheel; the client opted to drive the car at a low speed into an empty parked car, knowing the airbags would deploy. So, think about an escape plan yourself, whether it's similar to that, climbing out an open window, or flinging open the door and running. But Jordan pointed out that you'll want to ensure the door is unlocked before you try to make that move, because that split second of discovering it's locked could give the carjacker the advantage.
• Something else you can attempt? Discreetly dial 911 on your phone. But don't mumble "I'm being carjacked" out of the corner of your mouth—go ahead and simply leave the phone on, because its GPS will be tracked by the operator and police. Do try to say things out loud to help them ID where you are, like "Why are we going to such-and-such museum?"
• Something maybe you shouldn't attempt? Using that mace you have in your glovebox or purse or on the keychain, because if the windows are closed, you'll end up coughing and tearing up just like the carjacker.
• Hold on…he's putting you in the trunk. Now what? Most later-model vehicles have a pull-release tab. "Wait until the vehicle has stopped and is not moving; you don't want to roll out at 40 mph and be struck by the vehicle from behind. Also, if you wait for the stop, there will probably be other vehicles around and people will see you." Before you get stuffed in the trunk, try to get to your phone and dial 911 and have it at the ready. You'll also be able to use the phone's illuminated screen as a flashlight to help you find that pull-tab, since it will be nearly pitch black inside the trunk.
• Whether the carjacker takes the car and abandons you or takes you along and you're released later, make sure you memorize distinguishing marks, such as scars, birthmarks, missing teeth, hair color, clothing, estimated height and weight, and any tattoos.
• And if you want even more peace of mind, you can also look into an invisible protection film for your windows, like from shattergard.com. A DIY kit averages $400, and it's a one-time installation and will stay on the Jeep's windows forever. ShatterGARD protects the glass from breaking, like if a carjacker tried to smash your window with a gun.