CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team found what’s being done about a soaring number of local carjackings.
The problem is getting a new spotlight after the carjacking and murder last week of Cleveland Police Officer Shane Bartek.
We investigated efforts to crack down and also learned of one big mistake you might be making that could turn you into a target.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley told us he has a special unit analyzing carjacking cases.
He says his Crime Strategies Unit gets different police departments to share notes and clues and look for connections.
In recent weeks, we’ve reported on a woman carjacked at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. A nurse in Cleveland got carjacked leaving work and we’ve seen a series of carjackings in Little Italy.
Also, the carjacking and murder of the Cleveland officer happened Friday on Rocky River Drive.
The county prosecutor said carjackings are up 50% in Cleveland since 2019. Last year in the city, there were 433. That’s more than one a day.
O’Malley said investigators often find small groups carrying out a bunch of carjackings. Often, those are groups of teens.
But, even busting some isn’t enough.
“They’ll be responsible for five, ten or 15 carjackings. The same group of five or ten people. Every time we hold them accountable, it seems there’s another group to take their place,” O’Malley said.
In fact, the suspects tied to the officer’s murder are under investigation for more carjackings.
We’ve seen many people surprised by carjackers, but the prosecutor says he routinely gets reports of people carjacked while not paying any attention to anything around them. He said they’re often sitting in their cars, looking at their phones and making themselves easy targets.
“We just have to put a stop to it,” O’Malley said.
He blames the courts for adding to the problem by, sometimes, being too soft on carjackers. He worries about the overall impact on Northeast Ohio if people in the general public don’t feel safe simply walking to their cars.