Carjacking in New Jersey – How to protect yourself
On Monday, we reported that the number of carjackings in New Jersey has dropped in recent years, but there are still hundreds of incidents annually. But what should you do if you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you're in your car and someone is coming at you with a weapon or if they're right outside the vehicle?
Law enforcement officials advise motorists to always keep an eye on their surroundings, and be aware of the people on the street and in vehicles near you.
"If you're stopped at a light and you see a group approaching your car or you just don't feel - you feel the sixth sense, the hairs on the back of your neck standing - run the red light, if you get pulled over by police, you just have to tell them what the story is," said Bradley Cohen, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Newark, New Jersey.
He said drivers should never risk their lives in an effort to keep their vehicles from getting stolen.
"Go with what your senses are, safety is obviously the paramount, if somebody is coming up to your car and they have a firearm, give the car up, that car isn't worth losing your life or getting hurt," Cohen said.
According to Cohen, several years ago, when carjackings were taking place all the time, a special task force was established by the Bureau and local law enforcement officials to go after the worst serial offenders. He said today, carjacking is more of an issue for local and state police, but the FBI still does get involved, especially when the incident is particularly violent, or if the carjacker has an extensive criminal background.
"If federal charges are brought, the perpetrator will face a longer jail term with no chance of parole," Cohen said.
Depending on the specifics of situation, he said carjacking could be a first or second degree crime, with a possible sentence of up to 20 years or more in federal prison.