WASHINGTON – Despite its recent drop, prosecutors say carjacking is likely to remain a popular crime in Maryland because it requires little skill or planning and can give criminals instant financial gain.
“You need some expertise to steal a car off the street. You have to know how to disarm an alarm or how to work the ignition,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom DiBiagio, who prosecutes the more-serious carjackings in federal court.
“For a carjacking, all you have to do is be violent enough,” DiBiagio said. “Plus when you carjack someone, you have access to more of their personal possessions: purses, ATM cards.”
Keith Carlough, division manager with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said carjackings will always be prevalent because the crime feeds on itself.
“Once a car has been stolen [and recovered] it needs replacement parts, so another car is stolen for parts and that one needs parts and so on,” said Carlough. “So there is always this demand for parts and cars are primarily stolen to meet that demand.
“It’s like a dog trying to catch its tail. You never quite catch up,” he said.
He said criminals target cars that are most popular with consumers, because they will have a ready market for parts for that particular make or model. The most popular target for Maryland carjackers since 1992 has been the Honda Accord, according to data from the Maryland State Police.
“There are awful lot of Hondas out there. So they [criminals] know that there will be a good market for replacement parts,” he said.
Carlough said most stolen cars end up in a “chop shop” where they are disassembled and the individual parts are sold on the black market. Thieves can earn more than twice the car’s original worth by selling it for parts, he said.
“Most of the people who repair cars are good people, but for the few shady garages out there who will buy the stolen parts and sell them for regular price to customers,” he said.
Carlough said stolen cars can also be sold whole. He said it is not uncommon for the less-than-scrupulous car salesmen to take the title and vehicle identification of a wrecked car and transfer it to an identical stolen vehicle, which is sold to an unsuspecting buyer.
The third-biggest reason for car theft is exportation, he said.
“It used to be just Mexico that they took them but now it’s all over the world. If you have a 4×4 here you can get $20,000 for it, but in the Third World you can get $50,000 for it,” he said.