As carjackings soar, hijackers are becoming more violent and Uber, Lyft drivers are in their crosshairs

Chicago police recorded 279 carjackings between November 1 and December 15 this year. By comparison, there were 75 during the same period in 2019, according to city data. That’s a 272% increase.

Year-to-date, reports are up 140% compared to 2019.

That’s bad. But there are two even more troubling trends within that statistic: Vehicular hijackers seem to be increasingly willing to use violence during their crimes, and ride-hail service drivers are being targeted by robbers who lure them into carjackings by using stolen phones.

And, CWBChicago has learned, the actual number of people who are being shot during hijackings is likely much greater than the public knows. We found Chicago Police Department media releases about shooting incidents have repeatedly failed to mention that victims were shot by carjackers.

More violent

At least three people have been shot during carjackings across Chicago during December, according to media reports. Two of those victims died of gunshot wounds.

Most recently, carjackers fatally shot Shuai Guan outside his Bridgeport home on December 21 after becoming frustrated because they did not know how to operate his Jeep, his widow told CBS2.

On December 3, carjackers shot and killed retired Chicago Fire Department Lt. Dwain Williams as he returned to his vehicle outside a popcorn store in Morgan Park.

Prosecutors on Monday charged a third person in connection with Williams’ death, 20-year-old Devin Barron. Barron was on bond for possession of a stolen motor vehicle at the time of Williams’ murder, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said during a bail hearing.

On December 6, a carjacker shot a 44-year-old man as the two struggled for control of the victim’s car at a gas station in South Shore.

Earlier this month, prosecutors charged two men with shooting people during separate carjacking attempts in November. But CPD’s media release about those cases did not mention that the victims were shot during carjackings.

In one case, CPD said, “a 28-year-old male victim was inside of a vehicle when two unknown offenders exited an unknown vehicle, presented handguns, and fired shots.” In the other, the police department said the victim was driving when two men wearing masks fired shots at him.

And at least two more people were shot during carjackings Thanksgiving week. Carjackers shot a Bucktown man who intervened in the attempted hijacking of his wife and daughter’s car on the 1800 block of North Marshfield. That crime was caught on surveillance video.

In a media release after the November 24 shooting, CPD failed to mention that the offenders were trying to hijack the family’s car the time of the assault.

On November 22, a worker was shot as he took garbage to a dumpster at Whole Foods, 1550 North Kingsbury. Investigators determined that the shot was likely fired by carjackers who were trying to take another store employee’s car inside the grocer’s parking garage. But, again, the police did not include that detail in the department’s media alert.

Uber and Lyft hijackings

CWBChicago reported in November that a growing number of Lyft and Uber drivers suspected that carjackers were using stolen phones to lure ride-hail workers into armed hijackings. Since then, plenty of evidence has emerged to support the drivers’ suspicions.

Prosecutors on December 16 charged Joshua Johnson with carjacking and robbing three separate ride-hail drivers at gunpoint during November. Johnson used stolen phones to lure the victims in via Uber and Lyft, according to the state’s allegations.

Yesterday evening, CPD detectives warned that four ride service drivers were carjacked last week by passengers they drove to the 11300 and 11400 blocks of South Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Drive. One carjacking took place every night between December 23 and December 25, according to the community alert.

According to prosecutors and police reports, carjackers are ordering Lyft and Uber drivers on phones that have been taken in other robberies. The robbers typically order victims to give up their phone passwords at gunpoint or with a threat of violence and then access the victims’ accounts.

Because Lyft and Uber apps do not have customers’ identifying information — other than their names — drivers have little opportunity to confirm that the person getting into their vehicle is the person who owns the account.

On Monday, CBS2 spoke with another Lyft driver who was recently carjacked by a fare. That driver told reporter Tim McNichols that the ride-hail company’s insurance program tried to charge him a $2,500 deductible after his hijacked car was found in unusable condition.

Neither ride-hail company responded to CWBChicago request for comment.

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About CWBChicago 6563 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is