Accounting for Carjackings: An Analysis of Police Records in a Southeastern City

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

American Journal of Police


This study used an expanded definition of "carjacking" to include those incidents in which force was used or threatened to take cars in face-to-face confrontations between suspects and victims. This exploratory and descriptive study surveyed all Savannah Police Department (Georgia) auto thefts (n=918), robbery (n=1,489), and homicide (n=24) incident reports for 1992. From these preliminary reports, researchers identified 68 incidents in which an auto was stolen from the victim by force, intimidation, or the use of a weapon. The findings show that the usual carjacking offense involved multiple, young, black, male suspects who wielded firearms, as well as a somewhat older, lone, black male victim, very late at night or early in the morning. The crime occurred most often on the weekend, on a public street, and as the victim was exiting or approaching the vehicle. The car was usually of modest value. Due in large measure to the way the police department in this study classifies carjackings, which is in compliance with the requirements of the Uniform Crime Reports, accounting for these crimes is tedious and prone to error. In virtually all police agencies, carjackings are included with auto thefts and robberies so they cannot be distinguished as a distinctive offense. 9 tables and 12 references