A friend of mine was recently carjacked.
He was parked on a corner waiting to pick up his daughter from her workplace late one evening when he saw two armed young men come up swiftly, one on each side of his car.
My friend is a genuine South Philly tough guy, and under other circumstances, he would have fought back. He has a license to carry, and his firearm was in a holster on his hip, but he thought better of it. He told me that he didn’t know if his daughter was at that moment walking out of her workplace, and he didn’t want her to get hurt in a crossfire.
He got out of his car and handed over his car keys.
Sadly, carjackings happen too often in Philadelphia.
I reached out to Gary Capuano, a retired Philadelphia Police sergeant, and asked him if he had any experiences with carjackings during his time as a cop, and if he had any tips on how to avoid becoming a carjacking victim.
“I had direct contact with an eighteen-year-old carjacker back in 2003,” Capuano recalled. “I was working plainclothes and detailed to finding the criminal who at the time was exposing his genitalia to the St. Maria Goretti High School girls. My partner and I heard the carjacking radio call and we proceeded into the area where it took place and actually stumbled upon the suspect and his new set of wheels sitting at a red light.”
The carjacker immediately made Capuano and his partner as police officers, and he took off. The plainclothes officers pursued him, announcing the pursuit over their police radio. Capuano and his partner apprehended the suspect on the Expressway just past the Penrose Avenue exit. The carjacker smashed into the divider wall, ran from the vehicle, and went up and over the wall into oncoming traffic with Capuano in pursuit.
“He couldn’t get over a chain link fence which was topped with razor wire that allowed me to close the gap between us. I injured my knee and was out of work for some time, eventually needing surgery. He pled guilty and served some time,” Capuano said. “Six days after the carjacking, Goretti girls spotted the flasher and gave chase. They caught him and held him until police arrived.”
To avoid being carjacked, Capuano said that drivers should be aware of their surroundings at all times and keep an eye out for people who appear to be hanging about with no clear purpose.
“Try to park in a well-lit area. Take a friend or relative with you while driving and always leave enough space between your car and the one in front of you,” Capuano advised. “This gives you some wiggle room in case you have to maneuver your way out of a bad situation. If you need to use an ATM, try to do so during the day including gassing up your vehicle. After food shopping, don’t become distracted and side-tracked and worried about loading your vehicle. Keep your eyes open. These criminals know just when to strike. It only takes seconds.”
Capuano said that when leaving a casino stay vigilant, especially if you happen to be going home a winner.
“Many a person has been followed out of a casino and into the parking lots, where they are robbed, assaulted and carjacked. There are also numerous incidents where people are followed home and then assaulted, robbed and carjacked.”
Capuno also suggests that if you happen to become a victim in a carjacking, don’t fight back. Give them your car. You can replace your car, but your family can’t replace you.
“If you see someone who appears to be broken-down on a street, continue on and call 911,” Capuano said. “Don’t be a Good Samaritan. Your calling 911 to get them help is sufficient. If your vehicle is struck and bumped from behind, call 911 immediately and give them any information you have on the striking vehicle. Stay on the phone with the 911 operator and give them your location as you drive on.”
Capuano suggested that you drive to a well-lit spot or if you happen to know where the nearest police station is located, drive there. These are some of the ruses that some criminals use to get their next victim.
“It is sad what our society has become. We can argue what has caused this, but in my opinion, the breakdown of the family as well as criminals not being held accountable for their actions are the main two reasons,” Capuno said. “We have to think like a criminal and be on guard 24/7.”
Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the On Crime column for the Washington Times. He can be reached via www.pauldavisoncrime.com.