ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — With car break-ins and thefts rising in the Cleveland area, local police are concerned that carjackings could become part of the picture.
Just last month, the Rocky River Police Department was warning residents to lock their car doors and remove their valuables after a string of vehicle break-ins. Now, police are offering advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of a carjacking.
According to the department, carjacking is a form of robbery — theft by use of force, or the threat of force, by an armed attacker against an occupied vehicle.
The police say to first understand how carjackers approach their victims: bumping your car, pretending to be a stranded motorist or flashing their own vehicle lights as if they are warning you that something is wrong with your car.
You might be tempted to pull over — only to have your car taken. Instead, stay inside your car with the windows closed and the doors locked. If you feel a threat, don’t stop. Drive to the nearest police or fire station.
Here are some other precautions:
• Make sure you always have your phone with you and that it is charged and ready to use.
• Look on both sides, and under, your car before unlocking and entering it. Trust your instincts. If you feel alarmed, call 911 and use your key fob to sound an alarm.
• Teach yourself to concentrate when driving so that you are aware of your surroundings at all times.
• Keep your car doors locked even when you are in the car and in traffic. Also, consider keeping windows rolled up as much as possible.
• Avoid poorly lit areas, isolated roads and intersections, as well as uninhabited areas of parking lots.
• If you come out of a store and your car is the “lonely-only” in the lot, find a security guard to go with you to your vehicle. They are happy to help.
• Watch for cars that seem to be following you. If you think someone is tailing you, drive to a police or fire station.
• While driving, leave plenty of room for escape. When stopped in traffic, waiting in line at the drive-thru or entering the roadway, make sure there is enough room between you and the car in front of you to drive away.
• Don’t leave your car unlocked, running or unattended at gas pumps or air pumps or while loading or unloading. It only takes a second for you to unlock it again. These are opportunities for someone to jump in your car and drive off, possibly injuring you or others.
• Don’t stop at isolated or hidden ATMs. You and your bank accounts may both be in danger.
• If you have no choice but to stop at that ATM, first have your transaction and cards ready, then pull your car as close to the ATM or window as possible so an attacker can’t get to the driver’s door. Check your mirrors over and over to see if anyone is approaching your car.
The police say to follow these precautions even during daylight hours.
But if it comes down to someone attempting to steal your car using force or the threat of force, they say, give up the car. Your life is worth more than the car. If possible, take note of the suspect’s appearance, direction of travel and if he is alone or possibly with someone in another car.
Finally, call the police as soon as it is safe to do so.
For questions or more suggestions to stay safe, contact the Rocky River Police Department at 440-331-1234.
Read more from the West Shore Sun.