CHICAGO — As reports of carjackings skyrocket in parts of the city, police are urging people to abandon their vehicles if approached by thieves — whether or not there's a visible weapon.
Carjackings are up 53 percent in Chicago this year compared to last year, city data shows.
Through the first seven months of the year, there have been 465 crimes classified as vehicular hijacking or aggravated vehicular hijacking in Chicago, data shows.
While those numbers are not nearly as high as in 2002, when the city registered 770 such incidents through July, they are 53 percent higher than the number of such crimes registered for the first seven months of 2016.
"We have been working aggressively to address an uptick in carjackings and the 'bump and run' vehicular theft incidents where individuals are being struck from behind by a suspect vehicle," police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an email. "While the numbers are up year to date, the frequency of those incidents has slowed given recent takedowns and focused enforcement missions by Area North."
Guglielmi said that detectives are focusing on "a pattern of younger individuals and even juvenile offenders" responsible for the thefts.
Police officials say there has been 84 carjacking arrests so far this year, at a rate of 18 percent crimes resulting in arrests. Last year by this time there were 72 arrests with 23 percent of carjackings leading to arrests.
The statistics don't include an incident early Thursday morning during which a 28-year-old student and small-business owner was shot to death after he resisted a carjacker in Noble Square.
"We strongly encourage anyone who may be a victim of a potential carjacking to be as attentive as possible and remember any notable descriptions about offenders and surroundings," Guglielmi said. "Try to avoid struggles over the vehicle or any property and immediately report the incident to 911."
The Thursday morning slaying occurred in the Shakespeare police district which has seen a 190 percent increase in car hijackings this year.
"In terms of last night's homicide, we do believe the carjacking was the motive," Guglielmi said.
Many incidents this year have been of the "bump-and-run" variety, when would-be robbers purposely hit cars to get drivers to stop so they can take the cars.
During one of those bump-and-runs, a white Maserati owned by Chicago Bears receiver Kevin White was stolen while his girlfried was driving.