CHICAGO - Federal and local officials say it will take an all hands on deck approach to address the area’s rising number of carjackings, calling on community members to do what they can to help.
In a virtual town hall hosted by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush on Monday evening, residents called in to express concerns for their safety and brainstorm possible solutions — to prevent future carjackings and help the young people involved.
Recent arrest data from the Chicago Police Department indicates most carjackings are committed by people between 15 and 20 years old, with some recent incidents involving girls as young as 14.
"These young people out there engaging in this behavior [are] dangerous to our whole community, and we need to be able to work together and be able to find ways to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community," State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Monday.
The carjackings are largely crimes of opportunity, with young people using these vehicles to joyride, post on social media or commit other crimes, according to U.S. Attorney John Lausch.
"These are young kids who have lost their way," Lausch said Monday. "In my heart of hearts I hope they don’t truly understand how damaging this is for the victim of those crimes."
Chicago police have recently stepped up staffing of its carjacking task forces, working in collaboration with Foxx, Lausch, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and various community groups to develop a "holistic approach."
Steven Dejoie of Community First Safe Pump Initiative has assembled a team of volunteers to monitor gas stations on the South Side for hours hoping to deter offenders. So far, Dejoie says their efforts have been successful, and Rush believes it will take more community work like this to prevent further crimes and help address some of the root causes.
"The police do what the police do, but at the end of the day this is our community," Rush said. "We can’t afford to point a finger at police and say they need to do their job when we could do more ourselves."