Pandemic brings sharp rise in King County carjackings

SEATTLE — It has been a dangerous year of virulent COVID and violent crime.  Carjackings are up 40% in King County.

“Carjacking is one of the most violent crimes we experience,” said Sgt. Tim Meyer of the King County Sheriff’s Office.

“I think what’s most concerning is that many of these subjects are armed,” said Meyer.

Last Saturday, shots were fired during an attempted carjacking in Georgetown. On Tuesday, Dante Henderson tried to stop the armed men stealing his car in Georgetown and held on to the fleeing SUV.

“I saw he was going faster and faster and was like, ‘Oh yeah, jumping off is going to be a problem,’” said Henderson.

Two weeks ago, three people were arrested as “persons of interest” in multiple carjackings in South King County.  Investigators said it appeared to be “simply sport” for those responsible. 

“The victims in this case were some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Meyer.

Investigators say with masks, carjackers are harder to recognize. During the pandemic, victims may be more isolated. 

“Somebody who’s going to commit a robbery or a carjacking, your victims may be more visible. There are less potential witnesses around,” said Meyer.

Investigators speculate that some thieves may be turning to carjacking, because they don’t know how to circumvent today’s high-tech cars.

“As they get more complicated theft deterrent systems, some may see this as just the quickest and easiest way to do so,” said Meyer.

Compared to some metropolitan areas, King County’s rise in carjacking is low. During the pandemic, carjackings have risen 126% in New Orleans, 134% in Chicago and 537% in Minneapolis.

Police say there are ways to reduce your chances of becoming a carjacking victim:

  • When walking to your car, be more aware of your surroundings.
  • Get into your car quickly, don’t linger.
  • At a stoplight, if there is a car in front of you, leave room for an out.
  • If someone demands your car, give it to them.

Dante Henderson said he suffered some abrasions and bruises after trying to stop the armed carjackers in Georgetown this week.  He is also grateful that his SUV was recovered. 

“Cars can be replaced.  Cars have values, but our own lives are priceless,” said Meyer.