There are many aspects of crime that we must train to fight back against, to stop, and hopefully to avoid. I often state with the weight of experience that most victims meet their adversary halfway. What the adversary is doing is wrong, both morally and legally. There is no excuse. Just the same, being aware of them is the first step in adopting the vigilant attitude called self-awareness.
If you are driving a vehicle you had best not be doing through life asleep. A startling statistic shows how common the crime of carjacking is. There are some 50,000 carjackings each year in the United States. By its nature carjacking is a dangerous crime that is often lethal. When the family is in the vehicle the situation is more serious. Each year many women are robbed, raped and murdered as a result of a carjacking.
The first thing to do in your defense against carjacking is to realize that these criminals are not people like you and me that have had a bad day. All criminals are sociopaths, and many are psychotic. Some are motivated by profit, others by desperation. Others are driven by a desire to cause human pain and suffering. Sometimes obtaining the vehicle is the end and other times the vehicle is a means to an end. The vehicle is stolen to affect an escape or to perpetrate some other crime. Being prepared is one simple precaution. As a firearms trainer, I train students for the worst-case scenario. In the area of carjackings, there are violent encounters that must be answered with gunfire. The majority of these difficulties may be avoided. The thief motivated by profit is most often handled by diligence and movement. The other type will require immediate and violent defense. Let’s look at some of the common tactical defenses against carjacking—
Do not think that defense against carjacking only applies when you are driving. Think defensively; think ahead when you park and leave the vehicle behind to park. Try to always park in lighted areas. Remember one reason carjackings occur is that security devices have advanced to the point that it is very difficult to steal a car. The logical thing for a criminal to do is to overpower the owner and take the vehicle and keys by force. When you approach your car be aware of the surroundings and people around the car. Never sit in the car and absent-mindedly go through your purse or count money. Don’t stop to help anyone you do not know. If you see people walking you do not trust or give you a bad feeling either avoid the area and take a circuitous route or run to the vehicle and leave quickly.
Avoid falling for new and more sophisticated tricks. In my home county, a gang placed a baby—the mother was in on the crime—in the middle of a road in a rural area and in a baby seat to lure someone to stop. Unbelievable? For some, a child is a hindrance and a tool to use. Dopers love their dope more than their children and anyone who thinks different is a fool whatever excuse is made. This ruse worked at least once. Another new trick is to approach a woman and yell something like, ‘Do you hear that? Do you hear that noise? Your engine is in trouble!’ Drive on. Don’t fall for such a trick. Be alert at all times. Criminals do not like an alert victim, they will move on to the next mark. Unfortunately for us in a tactical sense, all carjackers are not desperate dopers and easily out-thought. Some are pretty sophisticated, canny, and capable.
Everything I learned in earning a Criminal Justice degree, serving as a peace officer over a period of more than 20 years and continuing research has convinced me that those victims who put up a fight and resist survive. I am far more concerned with the life and body of the victim than the vehicle. You must undertake the fight immediately when threatened. Once you leave the initial area of the carjacking your chances of death and being found half buried in a remote area go up exponentially. Fight, scream, and get away. The simple expedient of driving with the doors locked at all times is one help, but carjackers also strike when you are exiting or entering the vehicle. They do not always attempt to jerk the door open at a traffic light, although this is common. Be alert. There are worse things that driving on and missing that meeting or going to another store. Let intuition be your ally.
If you are attacked, a comforting thought is that many carjackers are not armed with a deadly weapon. Many use strong-arm tactics. However, the professionals are often armed. The contrast is that the spaced-out meth head desperate for your vehicle is far more likely to panic and kill you than the professional who is motivated by profit and wishes only to steal your vehicle. But any criminal will use lethal force to escape or when corned. Some will flee at the first resistance. Others will become enraged and attack. You must be prepared for any incident. We do not train for the average day but for the worst-case scenario. Cute tricks and theories do not pan out. Only research of actual incidents will tell you how to prepare. It is common for a felon to reach into the vehicle and grasp the victim. A good tactic that should be in your muscle memory is to quickly blade your thumb under their palm, wrap your fingers around their hand and pull all of your body weight into twisting the wrist. Even if you weigh only a hundred pounds and you put half of that weight on the wrist it will be sprained or broken. That will cause many to retreat. Another tactic that would be effective is to keep a good edged tool handy. I am presently using the CRKT Brian Tighe ‘My Tighe’ folder as an all-around go anywhere do anything folder. It is an interframe design and means it is very strong. The blade features an assisted opening device that helps the blade spring to action at the touch of the blade. It locks securely and will not collapse on you. It is affordable and everyday use for a variety of chores from opening boxes to trimming errant threads. In a defensive situation, it may be handled quickly and makes a powerful deterrent and if need be can inflict a serious wound. A knife cannot take the place of a gun but in such a situation a rapidly deployed blade can be a lifesaver. Remember the felon will sense your determination. Be determined and develop the proper mindset. The best tactic is to drive off when you are able, even if the thug has his arms in the window. Unless he is insane he will let go.
Since many of you reading this are living the armed lifestyle you will be armed with a handgun if you are involved in an attempted highjack. The level of force involved may not be lethal, but you are in a terrible situation. Obviously, you did not see this one coming or you simply would have driven away! You may be caught just as you attempt to enter the vehicle or just as you are leaving it. If the adversary is close enough to grab you or your keys, your situational awareness is lacking—or you have run into a blind spot. Do not walk with your keys in your hand, rather, smoothly retrieve them from purse or pocket just as you approach the vehicle. You should be able to open the door without looking at the lock, let it be smooth and practiced. A keyless and electronic opening is very good to have. If the felon takes your keys or the car you cannot use deadly force once your life is out of danger. Unless the cubs are in the vehicle, shooting isn’t an option. If they are you had best be sure of your shot. A bullet fired into the vehicle can ricochet and end up literally anywhere in the vehicle. Which brings us to driving with a handgun. Carrying a handgun is a compromise between access and retention. Among the best means of carrying a handgun in the vehicle is the crossdraw holster.
A good purpose designed crossdraw holster is the ideal driving holster. You cannot take a strong side holster and place it on the wrong side—the angle is all wrong. It would be a horrible combination. A purpose designed crossdraw allows the user to conceal the pistol beneath fairly light covering garments. It isn’t simply useful when driving. When seated behind a desk or even at a dinner table your hand is naturally very close to the handle of the handgun. With practice, the draw is smooth and sharp. When seated with a conventional holster worn on the strong side the handgun is behind the hip and inaccessible, perhaps even uncomfortable. If you are in the vehicle much of the day some thought must be given to the proper holster.
A holster that is affordable, readily available and well-made is the GALCO Hornet. This holster often carries my backup revolver.
When you are able to deploy a handgun beneath a covering garment the shoulder holster should be considered. The shoulder holster has all of the advantages of the crossdraw when driving or seated and also a couple more. If you have had a lower back injury the shoulder holster gets the weight of the gun off of the belt line. The best shoulder holsters use a well-made leather harness. Two magazines on the opposite side of the handgun keep the handgun balanced. This is an excellent option well worth studying.
These holsters and a good handgun go a long way toward keeping your person secure in the event of a car jack attempt. They are as lethal force always is the absolute last-ditch defense. When situational awareness hasn’t warned you of the danger coming or it burst upon you in a heartbeat this gear can be a lifesaver. Study the problems, know the local trouble spots, and stay safe by being aware and thinking ahead of the game.
What would you do if you found yourself in a carjacking scenario? Tell us in the comment section!
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice, and is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills, and others. He is a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications also. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.