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 Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire : Monday February 2, 2004

CAR-JACKING

Reconstruction of a car-jack
The violent form of car theft

Would you know what to do if you were sitting at a road junction and a car thief hammered on the window shouting at you to get out? This is car-jacking.

Inside Out investigates.

Inside Out's Morland Sanders took the opportunity to take some tips from former "special forces" driving experts in evasive driving techniques.

He was also made aware of just how violent this form of car theft really is.

Not surprisingly, the criminal fraternity have broadened their tools of the trade and car-jacking is the name of the game for a quick buck - often as a first step to another crime.

And while they've a taste for cars at the top end of the market - the reality is that almost any kind of vehicle will do.

Just for kicks?

Crashed car
Don't take risks - it is only a lump of metal

They will go for your car either just for fun or to feed the multi-million pound racket that could see your car destined for Eastern Europe or Africa - they don't care.

Car-jacking is an opportunist crime, usually being committed by a thief searching for easy pickings.

Young people can often see it as a rite of passage - a status symbol or just a thrill for joy-riding.

With the prevalence of sophisticated car alarms and anti-theft devices, the car thief has had to think of different ways to get his prize - car jacking is a relatively soft target.

Cars, especially luxury ones, provide quick cash for drug users and other criminals, so the street corner or traffic lights can very much be seen as their patch.

Victim

Judith St Claire
Judith St Claire was lucky to get away with minor injuries

Judith St Claire knows only too well how far car-jackers are prepared to push their luck.

She had her Mercedes keys taken from her as she got into her car - but she was determined not to let her vehicle go without a fight.

Her persistence paid off - her attackers fled without her car - but there are dozens of others who have similar stories to tell.

Car salesman Paul Burnyeat had the ignominy of being booted out of a car after going on a test drive - the tales are endless.

The 'bump' method

In Britain we are under a legal obligation to report any accident that involves a car. So car thieves have tried the "bump" car jack.

This ploy is where the car thief will drive gently into the back of your car, sometimes when on the move, which obliges you to pull over to "exchange details". This is when the thief will attack.

And while it's just a "lump of metal" that can be replaced, there are some commonsense actions to take to reduce the risk of attack and loss of your car.

Specific law

Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation, says, "With car-jacking on the increase throughout the country, the violent thugs who carry out this crime should be given harsher penal sentences.

Blunkett
Blunkett is taking a strong stance against this crime

"Establishing car-jacking as a specific criminal offence would make this easier, and enable the police to obtain accurate records of the number of attacks that are taking place nationally.

"The home secretary has suggested that thieves who target innocent motorists in car-jacking attacks will be sent down for a very long time.

"We hope that the government takes the suggestion of making car-jacking a specific offence seriously."

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett says, "We have got to send a very clear message and the message is - get involved in this and you will go down for a very long time."

Avoid becoming a victim

Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim from Chris McGoey - the 'Crime Doctor'.

  • Always park in well-lighted areas, if you plan to arrive / leave after dark
  • Don't park in isolated or visually obstructed areas by walls or heavy foliage
  • As you walk to your car be alert to suspicious persons sitting in cars nearby
  • Ask for a security escort if you are alone at a shopping centre
  • Watch out for young males loitering in the area (handing out flyers, etc)
  • If someone tries to approach, change direction or run to a busy shop
  • If safe, open the car door, enter quickly, and lock the doors
  • Don't be a target by turning your back while loading packages into the car
  • Make it your habit to always start your car and drive away immediately
  • In the city, always drive with your car doors locked and windows up
  • When stopped in traffic, leave room to manoeuvre and escape, if necessary
  • If you are bumped in traffic, by young males, be suspicious of the accident
  • Wave to follow, and drive to a garage or busy place before getting out
  • If you are ever confronted by an armed car-jacker don't resist
  • Give up your keys or money if demanded without resistance
  • Don't argue, fight or chase the robber - you could be seriously injured
  • Call the police immediately to report the crime and provide details
See also ...

Inside Out: Yorkshire & Lincolnshire
More great stories

On bbc.co.uk
BBC: Man attacked during car-jacking
BBC: Car-jacking law change urged

On the rest of the web
Prevent-crime - Car-jacking

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