Kent Police issue crime alert with safety tips to avoid carjackings

Agency also offers recommendations if a driver is carjacked

Kent Police have issued a crime alert about the increase in carjackings in the region and steps residents can take to help avoid such incidents or what to do if they are carjacked.

”Some of these are staged accidents, (bump and runs), and some are straight up suspects approaching people and threatening them while they are entering their vehicles,” according to an Oct. 5 Kent Police statement. “It is always good to be alert and aware, but we want to restate some tactics you can use before you leave, while you are out and about, and if you are a victim. Please share with all the drivers in your home.”

Kent Police safety tips:

Be aware of surroundings

Important any time, but especially important when you may be in more isolated or less visible location such as a side road or in a part of the parking lot where visibility is obscured, according to police. While driving, carjackings are more common in places where you slow down such as intersections, slower speed roads and highway ramps.

Being alert also means to turn off the headphones and stop looking at your phone. Criminals look for, and target, distracted victims.

Personal items

Your car is your second home, until someone takes it. Keep your purse, wallet, keys, cellphone and other valuables on your person. If you need to exit your car quickly and you’re not carrying them, you will lose all those things.

On a side note, as convenient as it may seem to put your garage/gate opener on your visor, just don’t. By the time you call 911 to report your car is stolen, the bad guys can be entering your garage and then your home. Hide it, or better yet, carry it in and out of the car.

Entering your vehicle

Take a second to scan the parking lot before approaching your car. If you see something that seems not right…maybe people lingering by your car, or someone watching you too intently? Hang tight, stay near safety, and wait and watch. If they don’t move on consider asking for an escort to your car or calling for assistance.

Once inside, lock your doors immediately.

Leaving the parking lot

Take a minute to double check that no one follows you out of the parking lot. It sounds very James Bond, but it’s easy to make it a habit. If you see someone following you, change course a few times. Sill following? Divert to a safe location like a police department, a highly occupied business or an open public facility. Do not drive home, to your child’s school, to a friend’s house or a fire department, (they are often out on calls and not in their station).

In a collision?

Look around you and assess the situation before you unlock your door or drop your window. Use your mirrors, take note of your location in case you need to call 911. Is your location isolated and/or dark? Are there obstacles obscuring your view from others?

If you have any hesitation about exiting your vehicle after a collision…drive to safe location while you are calling 911. Tell 911 where you are going and why. Don’t leave your vehicle until an Officer arrives or you are otherwise safe. Do not drive home. If you don’t have a phone in your car, safely drive to the nearest populated location and don’t exit until you know you are not being followed. Then ask someone to all 911.

You’re being carjacked

The number one most important thing if you are a victim of a carjacking is to remember that the car doesn’t matter. If you are not able to drive off, do not fight for your car. Get out and if feasible run away. Create distance and then find a safe place to call 911. If you are in a parking lot, run into the closest open store or building.

Convey to 911 descriptions of the suspects, what they were wearing, if they had weapons, direction they traveled etc.

Other tips

• Place a tracking device such as an Apple Air tag in a hidden spot in your car.

• Download a tracking App on your phone and leave your location on whenever you travel. Many of us use Life360. It is free. Have at least one friend in your “circle.” Wherever your phone is, the App can find it.

• Do not stop for stranded motorists or hitchhikers. We know you want to help, and the suspects know it too. Instead of stopping, note their location and call 911.

• Beware of people approaching you and asking for directions or help.

Most of you will never have this happen to you, especially if you practice the prevention tips, according to police. If it does happen to you, we want you to think about and practice the tactics to help keep you safe during the crime.

Carjacking statistics

With the crime alert, Kent Police did not release any statistics about the number of carjackings in town.

Police Chief Rafael Padilla said in an Oct. 9 email that the department’s crime data analyst is on vacation, so it will take a bit to get specific numbers about carjackings. Padilla said carjackings are included in robbery stats, but not individually called out in the data.

Robberies are up this year and a good percentage of those are carjackings, Padilla said. As of September, robberies were up 22% so far this year with 167 incidents compared to 126 at this time in 2022.

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