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'Everything can be replaced except you' | One-on-one with a sergeant on the Carjacking Taskforce

Sergeant Valkyrie Barnes is on the front lines of the battle against carjacking in the District. As of Friday, there were 330 carjacking offenses.

WASHINGTON — High-profile cases continue to shine a spotlight on the growing problem of carjackings in the district. As of Friday, there were 330 reported cases of carjacking, which is up by 23%, compared to this time last year. 

Sergeant Valkyrie Barnes from the Carjacking Taskforce sat down with WUSA9 to discuss tips on avoiding becoming a victim. To watch the full interview, check out the clip below. 

"There has been a substantial increase," Barnes said. 

According to Barnes, there has not been one hotspot for carjackings. These incidents are happening across all seven police districts. The number of carjacking offenses, according to the dashboard are as follows: 

  • 1D: 64 carjackings
  • 2D: 11 carjackings
  • 3D: 54 carjackings
  • 4D: 23 carjackings
  • 5D: 59 carjackings
  • 6D: 70 carjackings
  • 7D: 49 carjackings

Barnes said that these offenses often happen at places with nightlife, where drivers may be distracted. She said that these carjackings are often crimes of opportunity, meaning it's not typically about the quality of the car. 

"Typically our carjacking victims are victimized when they’re most vulnerable," she said. "When they’re not paying attention or when their attention is directed elsewhere." 

Barnes offered the following tips for people hoping to avoid becoming a victim of a carjacking. 



TIP ONE: AVOID DISTRACTIONS WHILE IDLING IN THE CAR:

Barnes said that this often means avoiding looking at the phone when idling. 

"That glow from the phone when you’re sitting in your vehicle is what the suspects are looking for," she said. "And with a lot of our investigations, the complainants are very forthcoming saying they were sitting in their car looking at their phone.”

Barnes said that this is why Rideshare drivers are often victims of carjackings. These drivers are forced to idle often, as they look to their phones for the next order. 

TIP TWO: AVOID DISTRACTIONS DURING TRANSITION POINTS:

Barnes pointed out that carjackings often happen as people enter or exit their vehicles. She said people should avoid distractions like headphones when walking out of their vehicles. 

"It's not just when you’re in the car," she said. "When you’re approaching your car - (for example) taking groceries out of the car. At that point, you are still in possession of the vehicle and that would be designated as a carjacking. And you know, you’re occupied."

TIP THREE: CONSIDER ADDING A VEHICLE TRACKER:


Barnes said that some cars already have the tracking technology, but they need to be turned on. She recommended that drivers turn it on now, so the suspect can be apprehended faster. 

She recommended drivers consider getting smaller tracking devices like Apple Tags if their car doesn't have a tracker already. 

TIP FOUR: DON'T FIGHT BACK

Barnes said that the worst thing someone can do if they are a victim of a carjacking is fighting back against the suspect. 

"Just give them the car," she said. "Give them your phone. Give them whatever they're asking for. Everything can be replaced except you." 

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