COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart testified today before a U.S. Senate Committee about the Chicago area’s disturbing rise in carjackings and his work with automakers on innovative, comprehensive solutions.
Last year there were more than 2,000 carjackings – or about one every four hours – in Cook County, traumatizing victims and perpetuating fear across the region, Sheriff Dart told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday during a special panel on carjackings that included multiple law enforcement officials and a national automaker trade group. That is a 38 percent increase in carjacking incidents from 2020.
While analyzing critical data compiled by the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Dart said he has found that tracking vehicles is an important component to solving these crimes and that automakers can help on that front.
“We believe auto manufacturers can be a great ally in this battle,” Sheriff Dart said during the hearing. “They already innovated the technologies needed to track the stolen vehicles. Now they must lead the way in developing a system to communicate in a consistent way with responding law enforcement.”
Currently, each automaker has its own unique process to obtain tracking information and too often it is difficult for police or victims to navigate. It can sometimes take weeks to get the information, making it harder to catch perpetrators and prevent the vehicles from being used in additional crimes.
In December, Sheriff Dart wrote to major auto manufacturers about this issue and suggested the industry create a single 24/7 phone number police can use to get tracking data quickly and legally on carjacked vehicles. Since then, promising discussions have developed with General Motors/OnStar and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents nearly all automakers.
Among the other witnesses testifying Tuesday was John Bozzella, president, and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.
“Another disturbing trend over the past two years has been the increase in carjacking across the United States. I came to appreciate the full scope of this challenge following outreach to our members from Sheriff Dart of Cook County, Illinois, to request assistance in addressing the rise in carjackings, including tracking these vehicles in real time,” Bozzella said. “We quickly engaged with Sheriff Dart and his team to better understand their challenges and concerns. We also brought together our entire membership to take a deeper look at this issue.”
Sheriff Dart created an analytics project to collect and track extensive details on carjacking incidents in Cook County and share that information with other law enforcement. He also developed a consent-to-track form that owners can submit to the Sheriff’s Office to grant access to vehicle tracking information in the event it’s illegally taken. Having the completed form on hand will make it easier for law enforcement to access tracking information from manufacturers.
“Make no mistake: this is a violent crime done primarily to obtain an anonymous car to commit more acts of violence, frequently shootings,” Sheriff Dart told the committee. “I’m a former prosecutor, and I can tell you firsthand the quicker we can get that vehicle, the less chance it will be used in another crime and the more likely we will be able to convict somebody.”
The consent form and safety tips are available on the Sheriff’s Office website. Video from today’s testimony may be found here.