Philly police using ‘every resource available’ to combat surge in carjackings

Deputy Police Commissioner Ben Naish addresses an increase in carjackings in Philadelphia. Recent victims include an off-duty police officer and a member of Congress, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Deputy Police Commissioner Ben Naish addresses an increase in carjackings in Philadelphia. Recent victims include an off-duty police officer and a member of Congress, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Amid a “disturbing” spike in violent crime, police say Philadelphia is already on pace to surpass last year’s total for carjackings.

Halfway through January, the department has recorded more than 90 carjackings. The city had roughly 750 of them in 2021, nearly double the total for 2020.

“We are truly using every resource available to combat this issue,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw during a news conference on Thursday.

The department has assigned uniformed and plainclothes officers to patrol carjacking hotspots, including parts of North Philadelphia, said Outlaw. There’s also a task force dedicated to investigating these incidents, in addition to the work being done by divisional detectives and the Major Crimes Unit.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, FBI, and ATF are providing additional support.

“The Philadelphia Police Department is actively working to identify and apprehend the individuals committing these crimes,” said Outlaw.

To date, police have arrested seven people in connection to a carjacking incident — five adults and two juveniles.

Police say most carjackings are being carried out by minors between the ages of 14 and 17. And that most of them are happening at gunpoint after someone has parked his or her car.

Deputy Commissioner Ben Naish said in some cases suspects will use two cars — a lead car  and a car to tail the stolen car, which he said may then be used to commit more crime, including shootings.

He advised people to stay aware of their surroundings and not fight back if they find themselves being carjacked.

“It’s a car,” said Naish. “It’s not worth your life.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Thursday’s new conference came less than 24 hours after an off-duty police officer was nearly carjacked shortly after his shift had ended.

Two suspects are now in custody.

The surge has also claimed the life of a student at Temple University and victimized a member of Congress.

In late November, weeks before he was set to graduate, Temple senior Samuel Collington was fatally shot during a botched carjacking. The incident occurred in broad daylight, shortly after the 21-year-old parked his mom’s SUV not far from the school’s campus in North Philadelphia.

Later the same month, police charged five teens in connection to an armed carjacking involving the U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, who represents parts of Philadelphia and Delaware County.

The Democrat was walking back to her car after a weekday meeting in FDR Park in South Philadelphia when two armed men approached her and demanded her keys.

Scanlon was physically unharmed.

Police encourage anyone with information about a violent crime, including carjackings, to call or text the department’s tip line at 215-686-TIPS.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal