ROCKVILLE, Md. - Police in Montgomery County say they’re seeing an unprecedented number of carjackings this year.
"The word unprecedented gets used a lot, but it really is an unprecedented time for us," said Assistant Police Chief Dinesh Patil.
In 2019, there were 20 carjackings and attempted carjackings in the county. In the first six months of 2021 there have already been 28. There were 36 in 2020.
Patil said cars taken in carjackings and auto thefts are often crimes of opportunity and the perpetrators are often teenagers under 16.
"Cars that are taken and used in other crimes almost immediately," said Patil. "Sometimes dumped almost immediately which tells us again that it’s opportunistic. These are not cars that are being taken, stripped for parts or shipped overseas."
He said one recent case that stands out happened last week in Gaithersburg where two guys stole a man’s Lexus SUV. The victim jumped on the windshield, held on for about 100 yards until he was thrown off and seriously hurt. The car was found soon after.
Jennifer, who didn’t want to use her last name, told FOX 5 about a scary run in in downtown Silver Spring following a bridal shower she planned at a venue on Georgia Ave. As she and others were loading their cars after the shower, a car pulled up next to her car.
"I think their attempt was a carjacking, but luckily I had my keys and my phone in my hand," Jennifer said. "But unfortunately I had my work bag on my passenger side."
She said a man entered her car and grabbed her bag with her wallet, computer and tablet.
"I lunged at him and we did a tug-of-war for my purse," she said.
Jennifer said in that moment her mind flashed to violent endings in recent carjacking and road rage cases. She decided it wasn’t worth it. She lost her bag, but gained perspective.
"I don’t leave anything visible anymore," she said. "I’m not going to ever leave my car unlocked. Ever."
Police are asking people to be aware and always lock up.
Another trend is jump-in auto thefts - when people or delivery drivers are running in to pick up food and leaving cars running.