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Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

Tracking is key to fighting carjacking, Dart says

From staff reports

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart has announced new efforts his office is taking to stop the rise in carjackings in the county by focusing on improving access to tracking information.

Carjackings have increased approximately 43% in the county so far this year, compared to the same period in 2020.

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Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

“We’ve been looking at how to curb this disturbing trend from all sides,” Dart said. “One [method] that would help is getting quicker access to a stolen vehicle’s location after it’s taken. This will help recover vehicles sooner, quite possibly with the offenders still at the wheel, making it easier to get criminal charges. This will also help prevent the cars from being used in other crimes.”

Dart has sent letters to the major automakers in the country, asking them to collaborate on how to address the crime. Most vehicles sold after 2015 have the capability to be tracked and nearly two-thirds of the vehicles taken in carjackings in Cook County are 2015 models or newer.

But the ability to contact a manufacturer and the requirements to gain access to the tracking information vary, depending on the car company. Many times, the process relies on victims – some of whom may be injured – to navigate a corporate bureaucracy when time is of the essence, Dart claimed.

One of the sheriff’s suggestions is for automakers is to create a free 24/7 hotline that customers and law enforcement may contact to request the vehicle’s location when it is stolen.

“Automakers can be part of a long-term solution to the rise in this incredibly serious crime,” Dart said. “We believe they will want to be part of that solution, and we look forward to meaningful conversations and actions.”

Dart said he is also working to empower vehicle owners. His office created a consent form that car owners may submit to the Sheriff’s Office to grant permission to release the vehicle’s tracking information to law enforcement in the event their vehicle is taken. With this permission in hand, police can more quickly work with auto companies to get the vehicle’s location information. The form, along with safety tips, are available on the Sheriff’s website.

A new public awareness sticker has also been created by the Office for owners to put on their vehicles announcing that it is trackable. The stickers will be available at courthouses and Sheriff’s police stations. The Office is also in discussions with car dealerships for wider distribution.

At a press conference announcing the new efforts, Dr. Stephanie Davis said she was assaulted at gunpoint during a September carjacking in broad daylight in the south suburbs. Even though her SUV had tracking capabilities, it took weeks of time and numerous phone calls to figure out whether that information could be obtained and how to get it.

Meanwhile, her SUV was used in two other crimes in the Chicago area. The SUV was swiftly recovered when the location information was provided.

“Improving quick access to tracking information will be beneficial for countless victims who are just trying to get their lives back after a horrific trauma like carjacking,” Davis said. “Speaking as a carjacking survivor, I hope the automakers will take a close look at this issue. They can be part of a real solution.”

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