By Sydney Voracek, Elizabeth Rojas and Evy Reyes
On Dec. 8, UIC graduate student Citlalli Trujillo and her boyfriend’s family joined many other Chicagoans as victims of an attempted carjacking and robbery, an incident that has changed her life dramatically.
After saying goodbye to her boyfriend’s parents that evening, she never expected to hear a scream outside her apartment in Pilsen. When Trujillo and her boyfriend returned to his parents, they were face-to-face with three to four individuals attempting to rob them with weapons.
“I looked at one of them in the face [and asked], ‘What do you want?’” she said.
The suspects, whom Trujillo described as young, surrounded the car and forced her boyfriend’s parents out of the vehicle. Trujillo’s boyfriend attempted to intervene but he got punched in the face as one of the suspects fired a weapon at the vehicle.
The individuals then left with a Michael Kors purse and all of their iPhones, with no one else seriously injured.
Her experience is one of many in Chicago as the city has seen a sharp increase in carjackings since the start of the pandemic. According to crime data in the City of Chicago Data Portal, from Jan. 1, 2021 to April 14, 2022 there have been 2,296 carjackings in the city.
After her incident, Trujillo began to see her neighbors flood the scene observing and asking questions. However, she was the one to call the Chicago Police Department, even though many others saw or heard the incident.
“I have lived here for three years,” Trujillo said. “If you heard that was happening, and if you saw it was happening, why didn’t you intervene? You know? It could be so easy to just call from your house.
“You’re not in danger.”
Trujillo said she’s frustrated with the community. She said that she has roots in Pilsen, loved ones have lived there for generations and it’s where she works and goes to school. She is not willing to abandon her community and her frustration has driven her to do more and get involved.
“I know some people get really baffled when I say this, but I actually am staying in the neighborhood,” Trujillo said, “pushes me to keep making my presence in the community, and I really want to change things as a researcher, as someone who has family in Chicago, and as someone who lives here now”
According to crime data on the City of Chicago Data Portal, there have already been 133 aggravated vehicular hijackings in the month of March 2022 across the City of Chicago.
Diane Ramos witnessed multiple carjacking attempts on March 12 through her living room window in the Hegewisch neighborhood, on Chicago’s East Side.
Ramos was relaxing in her living room watching TV, when suddenly through the window in her living room she saw a group of four African American men walking up and down the street. Considering she lives on a main street she found this very odd, especially at 8:30 p.m.
As she looked out her door, she saw the four men running in front of cars, up to the cars, and pretending to have a gun with them in an attempt for a car to stop to carjack them.
Ramos told her husband to call 911. She stressed the importance of being aware of your surroundings and any suspicions going on around you. According to ABC 7 Chicago report, the most common days to get carjacked in Chicago are on a Tuesday, though the incident Ramos witnessed was on a Wednesday.
CPD Officer Hernandez, has been on the force for six months. She has never witnessed a carjacking herself, but her district is familiar with the incidents.
“I’ve never personally witnessed it happen, but of course we do take reports on it,” she said. “Especially because of the district that I’m in, we’re so filled with expressways. It’s literally [where] two expressways meet. So my point being is that people come and carjack and then just hop on the expressway. So it’s really easy to do that.”
Hernandez said that sometimes when a carjacking occurs, it’s not always violent because most of the time that people have gotten their car stolen it’s because they left their car running, especially if they do DoorDash or UberEats.
“They’ll run to go get their food and pick it up,” she said, “and their car will be gone because they left it on. That’s usually a lot of time [with] the carjackings.”
“So, there’s the carjacking and then a straight steal. A straight steal is when you leave your car running with the keys in it and then they take it. [To be considered] carjacking, there needs to be some type of force.”
Although Hernandez has not been involved in aggravated vehicular carjackings where the drivers were injured, she mentioned her colleagues’ experiences when investigating carjacking in Chinatown. Hernandez explains her colleagues’ experiences as, “violent” and, “a lot of instances where they hit the driver over the head with a gun.” This is a similar situation to Truilljo’s experience where the offenders were violent and used their weapon.
Said Hernandez, “Why are they so common? Honestly, I don’t really understand the purpose of carjackings. A lot of the time, people will take them and commit a crime or not, and then dump them.”
Hernandez said that when people commit vehicle hijacking, they are unable to drive too far due to the key fob. This causes the engine to stop when the key is not near it. She further explains that cars that have a key fob let you program it so the car can only drive within five miles until the car senses that there is no key fob. Once the car senses that there is no key fob it will stop.
Hernandez was asked if there is a pattern of certain cars that are carjacked.
“It’s usually any car, I’ve seen a lot of Jeeps get stolen, as well Lexus, Mercedes, Volkswagen, or like the Volkswagen trucks,” she said.
According to CBS 2 Chicago, the most common cars to get carjacked in Chicago are Jeeps, specifically the Grand Cherokee model. Toyota Camrys are also common cars to be carjacked because they’re one of the most cars seen on the road.
Brielle Conwell discusses how this three-part carjacking project was reported.
Camrys have a 3.61 percent of all the carjacked vehicles that have occurred in Chicago. Followed by the Grand Cherokee with 2.97 percent.
Getting these two cars comes with the cost of potentially being targeted for carjacking here in the city of Chicago.
Elizabeth Favela also witnessed the multiple carjacking attempts on March 12 near her mother’s home in Hegewisch.
As Favela was standing in the kitchen preparing dinner for her family, she saw two African American men walking up and down the middle of the street. She then saw two other African American men running toward the two walking. The men were screaming, “Let’s get the next car, go.”
Favela noticed that as she was dialing 9-1-1, police were already arriving. She and her husband decided to go outside to see what was going on and then saw other neighbors outside.
Favela said, “It feels good to know I live in a neighborhood where we are always cautious and mindful of what is going on and we act on any suspicions.
“Our neighborhood is family-oriented. Those who are attempting carjackings are not from here and we all know this.”
How to Help
Trujillo said neighbors can help with community policing by attending beat meetings. Beat meetings are hosted by Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) and are used as a communication tool across residents, police officers, and other community members.
Here are some other resources that can be used to better assist the community:
- WTTW Pilsen – A platform specific to Pilsen resources
- Pilsen Wellness Center – A resource that assists the Pilsen community with affordable mental health services and holistic human services
- The Resurrection Project – A nonprofit in the Pilsen community that advocates for clean and peaceful streets, safe and affordable housing, and quality education and community resources.
- Chicago Cred – A nonprofit to reduce gun and street violence in Chicago by taking a multifaceted approach through Street Outreach, Coaching & Counseling, Workforce Development, and Advocacy & Prevention.