Chicago police continue to find people driving hijacked cars, but many of those drivers are still being charged with crimes that are much less serious than carjacking. That’s usually because the victims cannot identify them as the offender who actually took their car.
Here is what happened after police recovered two cars that were taken in recent hijackings we reported on.
Goose Island case
On April 2, a hijacker took an Indiana man’s rental car on the 1200 block of North Halsted near Goose Island.
The 62-year-old victim was in a parking lot when the carjacker stepped out of a silver car that was driven by an accomplice, hit him in the head, and drove away with his vehicle, according to a CPD report.
Five days later, a CPD license plate reader spotted the stolen car traveling through Back of the Yards. Police tried to pull the car over, but the driver sped away, so they ended their efforts to pull the car over.
But they spotted the car again a few minutes later in a nearby alley. As the squad car pulled up, the driver sped from the alley and struck the patrol car, breaking one officer’s wrist and dislocating another cop’s finger, prosecutors said.
The driver bailed out of the car and ran. He didn’t get far.
Prosecutors charged Seth Johnson, 19, of Kane County with possession of a stolen motor vehicle and aggravated fleeing, both felonies. They also charged him with two misdemeanor counts of resisting. It was his first arrest.
Judge Charles Beach set his bail at $25,000, meaning Johnson had to post $2,500 to get out of jail.
On the evening of March 29, two masked hijackers took a 28-year-old Lakeview man’s car at gunpoint on the 3700 block of North Marshfield.
One of them opened the victim’s car door, pressed a gun to his head, and ordered him out. Both offenders then headed north in the victim’s car.
Two days later, around 1 p.m. on March 31, Chicago police pulled the car over in the South Loop after it popped up on a license plate reader. Officers arrested the driver, 19-year-old Demario Greer, who was alone in the vehicle, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors charged Greer with misdemeanor criminal trespass to a vehicle and he walked out of the local police station on his own recognizance later that day, according to CPD records.
“I understand some of the frustration is felony versus misdemeanor, that all comes from witness identification,” Lt. Thomas Keene told residents at a Bucktown-Wicker Park community meeting last year. “What that person’s role in the crime was and who can identify them? Can the witness identify them? Can the victim identify them?”
Some Illinois legislators have proposed laws that would increase the seriousness of driving a hijacked vehicle, even if the driver may not be responsible for the carjacking. So far, those legislative efforts have not gained traction.