In response to recent local Vehicular Hijackings, often referred to as a carjacking – a crime cities nationwide are reporting to have increased since the pandemic began – Champaign Police are reminding the community of important precautions to help prevent these crimes from occurring. A person commits Vehicular Hijacking when he or she knowingly takes a motor vehicle from the person or in the immediate presence of another by the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force.
Three Vehicular Hijackings, or attempts, were reported to Champaign Police in April 2021. This is an increase from January, February, and March 2021 where zero reports of Vehicular Hijackings were reported to police.
- On April 3, 2021, at approximately 11 p.m., Champaign Police responded to Meijer at 2401 N Prospect Ave. for a reported Vehicular Hijacking. Officers learned a male suspect entered the victim’s vehicle and demanded a ride while implying he was in possession of a weapon. The victim proceeded to drive the offender southbound on Prospect Avenue. The victim was able to then escape the vehicle at a red light in the intersection of Prospect Avenue and Marketview Drive where he sought assistance. The suspect exited the vehicle and fled the area. No arrests have been made. The suspect is described as a Black male, bald, possibly between the ages of 16-18 and was observed wearing a black hoodie.
- On April 4, 2021, at approximately 12:26 a.m., Champaign Police responded to 51 E Green St. for the report of an Attempted Vehicular Hijacking. Officers learned the victim was gathering items from her running car to take into her daughter’s apartment. The victim opened her passenger side door when a male suspect entered the driver’s side door, pulled out a firearm and pointed it at the victim. The victim was able to draw attention to herself by honking the car’s horn, causing the suspect to flee the area. No arrests have been made. The victim described the suspect as possibly a Hispanic, Asian, or Black male approximately 18 years old. The suspect was wearing ripped jeans, a black hoodie, a black face gator and shoes that had white trim.
- On April 21, 2021, at approximately 4:02 p.m., Champaign Police responded to Planet Fitness at 2002 Glenn Park Drive for a reported Vehicular Hijacking. The victim was sitting in her vehicle when she was approached by the offender who demanded at gunpoint to give up her phone and car. The female was able to escape the encounter physically unharmed, and the offender fled with the vehicle. Later that day, through police investigation, Kentrell Spearment, 19, of Chicago, was located and arrested on preliminary offenses of Theft of a Motor Vehicle, Aggravated Vehicular Hijacking and Unlawful Use of a Weapon in connection with the Vehicular Hijacking.
There is not a specific pattern to when a carjacking may occur, but like many other offenses it can be a crime of opportunity where the offender takes advantage of the moment. The best way to reduce the likelihood of a carjacking is to always remain aware of your surroundings, in addition to the following safety tips.
- Approach your car with the keys in hand. Look around and inside the car before getting in.
- Park in well-lit areas clearly visible to the public. Keep your doors locked while seated inside.
- Stay vigilant at public garages, parking lots, gas stations, drive-up ATM machines, and at all stop lights. Often, if a criminal believes that a victim has observed him or her, they will look for an easier victim.
- Never leave valuables in plain sight; lock your car, take the keys, and keep your cell phone with you.
- Never leave your car running and unoccupied.
- Equip your vehicle with anti-theft/GPS systems.
- Trust your instincts. If you notice something suspicious, report it and go to a safe area.
If you find yourself in a carjacking scenario, remember the safety of you and your passengers is the priority and take the following precautions.
- Forfeit your vehicle and leave the scene. The vehicle can be replaced but you are irreplaceable.
- Try and remember the description of the suspect and suspect vehicle.
- If a child is inside, inform the offender.
- Call 911 immediately to report the crime.
Anyone who has information on recent carjackings, including attempts, is asked to please contact police at 217-351-4545. Arrangements can be made for information to be shared privately. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may also submit tips to Crime Stoppers by phone at: 217-373-8477 (TIPS); online at 373tips.com; or the “P3 Tips” mobile app.
Champaign Police reminds citizens that information submitted to Crime Stoppers is completely anonymous. Calls are routed to a third-party national call center that receives your information, completes a tips information form, and then passes the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Caller ID tracking is not utilized by Crime Stoppers and conversations are not recorded.
Crime Stoppers will pay a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of an individual who used a gun for a felony in Champaign County.