TINLEY PARK — Drivers in the south suburbs have a better chance of seeing a carjacking than in other county suburbs, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, as representatives offered data and steps to take for potential victims during a seminar in Tinley Park.
Carjacking incidents have been on the rise in Cook County’s suburbs, and communities such as Tinley Park are taking steps to combat it, such as deploying more surveillance cameras that can help police investigate reports of stolen cars.
“The south suburbs have more of a problem than the north suburbs,” Roe Conn, with the sheriff’s office, said at the seminar Thursday at the Tinley Park Convention Center, with about 100 people attending.
Conn is a former radio talk show host brought on by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart last year as a senior project manager concentrating on carjackings.
Being aware of one’s surroundings, not keeping your vehicle running when dashing into a business and not resisting a carjacking attempt were among the tips offered.
Conn also said the odds of somebody licensed to carry a concealed firearm overcoming a carjacker are against the vehicle owner.
If a carjacker has a gun drawn, “it’s very hard to do,” he said.
Police, Conn said, advise victims to give up their vehicle without a confrontation. He said many vehicles are recovered not long after a carjacking.
“The car is a piece of property, it’s not your family,” he said.
Conn said it’s also important to keep information about your vehicle, such as make and model, license plate number and vehicle identification number, in a separate place, such as a wallet or on your phone. That can assist police in locating and recovering a vehicle, he said.
“They just want the keys to your car and your cellphone,” he said.
And speaking of phones, it is one of the items carjackers are most interested in apart from your vehicle, Conn said. He suggests leaving an old cellphone that doesn’t have your current information in the center console of your car. If a carjacker wants your phone, point out that old phone, he said.
Also if there is a child in the car, tell the carjacker that, Conn said.
“Once they take a child it’s kidnapping,” which car thieves will avoid, he said.
For all of Cook County, there have been 4,153 carjacking incidents since Jan. 1, 2020, and in 2021 carjackings increased 38% compared with 2020, according to the sheriff’s office.
In the Cook County suburbs, there were 194 carjackings last year compared with 145 in 2020, according to the sheriff.
A trend graph shows there were 95 carjackings in the suburbs over the first six months of 2021 compared with 41 incidents over the same period in 2020, then year-over-year figures for the remaining months were approximately equal.
Dart noted that legislation introduced this past week in the General Assembly could help police in quickly locating carjacked vehicles.
The legislation would require vehicle manufacturers to establish a 24/7 recovery hotline that would enable law enforcement to quickly track stolen vehicles in real time, according to Dart.
Manufacturers now have different procedures that can delay police access to a vehicle’s location, according to Dart.
The bill would also require carmakers to provide law enforcement with information about the tracking capabilities of vehicles based on the model, year and version, he said.
Dart was not at the seminar, but in a video introduction the sheriff said increased access to locations of vehicles involved in carjackings would be of great value.
“That is the game-changer,” he said. “We can do so much if we can track these vehicles.”
The sheriff’s office is also encouraging vehicle owners to complete consent forms that would give law enforcement authority to track the owner’s vehicle if it is taken unlawfully.
Conn said the sheriff’s office can’t use the information to track someone’s car unless it is taken unlawfully.
The seminar came after allegations surfaced that Tinley Park Mayor Michael Glotz may have overstepped his authority during a January investigation into the theft of a vehicle belonging to his daughter.
The theft occurred Jan. 10 in Tinley Park, after the mayor’s daughter made a quick visit to drop off food to a friend at a hotel in the village. She was steps away and had left the vehicle running, and her purse and phone were in the vehicle when it was taken, according to Village Manager Pat Carr.
The Daily Southtown has, through the state’s Freedom of Information Act, requested police reports and other documents related to the investigation, which spilled over into communities including Calumet City.
The report was classified as a stolen vehicle and not a carjacking, according to Carr.
At the seminar, however, Glotz, making introductory comments at the beginning, said the topic of carjacking “is very personal.”
“Just this past January, my daughter’s car was carjacked right here in Tinley Park,” the mayor told the audience.
Glotz said he hoped the information provided at the seminar will “help prevent from happening to my daughter from happening to you or someone that you love.”
More surveillance cameras with the ability to scan license plates are set to be deployed along Chicago-area highways, and Tinley Park is expanding its network of such cameras.
License plate reading cameras are already in place at Harlem Avenue intersections with 183rd and 191st streets, flanking the north and south sides of Harlem’s interchange with Interstate 80.
Larry Rafferty, Tinley Park’s deputy police chief, said the village’s plan is to “geographically surround” the village with license plate reading cameras, positioning them at main entry/exit points to the village.
The LPR cameras can alert to police to a possible stolen vehicle. Conn said another thing people should check is their vehicle’s license plate, because sometimes plates have been switched out, especially from a higher-end vehicle, to stick on a stolen car.
Conn also said that Apple AirTags, the tiny disc-shaped tracking devices, have been used to help car thieves.
Small enough to be hidden in a vehicle’s bumper or behind a license plate, the tag is used by thieves to track the location, such as the vehicle owner’s home, where it could later be stolen, Conn said.
The presence of a tracking device may result in a cellphone notification to the vehicle’s owner stating “AirTag detected near you,” and if you or anybody in your car had not activated that, Conn said it could mean somebody planted it. He said the car should be examined or police notified.
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