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“We definitely saw an increase after corona,” Joseph Sullivan, a former deputy commissioner from Philadelphia, told Fox News Digital.
The veteran police officer told FOX 29 that the city has already recorded 420 carjackings in 2022. Officials remain puzzled by the possible cause of this surge, but Sullivan argued that the rise resulted from a mixture of more lenient enforcement policies and the end to programs that normally would keep kids off the streets.
“Schools shut down — rec centers, athletic programs, afterschool activities. We basically took away safe spaces in many of these areas where you’re seeing an increase,” Sullivan explained. “Those types of programs are really vital, because they’re some of the more depressed areas with not a lot of opportunities for young people.
“And that got compounded after the murder of George Floyd, when we saw the emergence of reform prosecutors who were against holding adults and juveniles accountable for committing violent crime and creating this atmosphere of impunity that there are no repercussions even if you’re caught by the police.”
Philadelphia was already reeling from a record-breaking 2021 that saw carjackings surge 85% over the previous year. The pandemic may have artificially suppressed some crime figures in 2020, but the city logged 840 carjackings in 2021 compared to an annual average of 230 between 2010 and 2019, according to Axios.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the crime does not remain isolated to a single part of the city, but hits across most areas. U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., was the victim of a carjacking in broad daylight in December last year.
“We know very little about the who and why of most carjackings in Philly since so few result in arrest,” the District Attorney’s Office said last month.
Philadelphia Chief Inspector Frank Vanore speculated that a change in technology may prove a significant factor. The rise of more advanced cars that require key fobs to drive would possibly force thieves to ensure the car is stolen while the fob is in the vehicle.
Sullivan said Vanore is “100% right” that such technology has exacerbated the issue, as well as the desire to take any electronics that drivers might have. He believes the police can and should do more to crack down on the carjackings, calling for a data-driven approach that task forces and regional partner agencies can use.
“I think they need to have specialized groups of officers who are focusing on this particular problem, gathering data, coming at it from a very intelligence-based perspective,” Sullivan explained.
“We need to be looking at where, when are these crimes occurring, where’s the profile of these people committing them? Are there specific times of days, makes of cars being targeted? We need to get that information out there.”
If the police do not continue to educate the public on the issue, it may lead to private citizens defending themselves. The rise in crime has likewise driven a surge in gun permit applications, at least, in part, for self-defense.
“What we have seen in Philadelphia is several instances where people have armed themselves legally and defended themselves,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know about other cities, but I know in Philadelphia the application for gun permits has risen exponentially, as we know the sales of guns has around the country.
“I think we’re going to see more and more citizens legally defend themselves.”