Chicago carjacking: Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias to dole out $21M in grants to fight carjackings in Illinois

CHICAGO (WLS) — It’s a crime we’ve seen again and again in Chicago: drivers forced to hand over their car keys.

The threat of carjackings has put many people on edge every time they go out.

Now, efforts to combat carjackings and vehicle thefts just shifted into high gear as Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias announced $21 million in new funding to address the problem.

Giannoulias said those two crimes are destroying communities across the state.

WATCH: Giannoulias announces funds to fight carjackings, car thefts

John Hendren said he never imagined he’s become a victim of a carjacking while making a quick run to a store in the city’s South Loop neighborhood.

“They both had guns. One pressed it against the side of my head and they said give me the keys,” Hendren recalled.

It happened Saturday night around 8:30, as the international news reporter went out to buy a cake for his wife’s birthday.

Hendren is the husband of ABC7 reporter Liz Nagy.

He was targeted as he got into his car.

RELATED: Nationwide arrest warrants issued for 2 after car hijacked during test drive at Posen dealership

While he was left unharmed, the armed gunmen and their accomplice hurriedly made off with his 2013 luxury vehicle, without taking his wallet or cellphone.

“I live in the South Loop. I don’t live in Bagdad and suddenly I go to target and I’m not safe at this place I’ve gone hundreds of times,” said Hendren, English senior correspondent for Al Jazeera.

This type of brazen carjacking, along with car thefts is exactly what Gannoulias hopes to combat, adding that he knows the terror of falling victim to one himself, sharing that he was carjacked at gunpoint years ago.

Giannoulias, who was the victim of a carjacking himself when he was a senior in high school made the announcement Thursday at the Thompson Center.

“Now having three daughters of my own, the thought of that happening in my kids’ lives being at stake is something that scares me,” Giannoulias said.

Six police organizations will share the funds.

Of the over $21 million in grant money, the Illinois State Police expressway safety enforcement group will get over $10 million.

“To stop crime, you have to solve crimes and to solve crime, you have to have the resources,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly.

The Illinois statewide auto theft taskforce will get over $3 million and the Chicago Police Department’s major auto theft investigation will get nearly $1.5 million.

RELATED: Carjacking safety tips: What to do if you’re approached by a carjacker

The grant award comes from the Illinois Vehicle Hijacking and Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention and Insurance Verification Council, which is funded by a $1 annual auto insurance policy assessment, collected by the secretary of state’s office.

This year, the Illinois General Assembly kicked in an additional $30 million.

Giannoulias said resources to combat the surging crimes are important.

“There is no single solution, but these grants give law enforcement needed financial resources, which will provide a greater sense of focus and effort to recover stolen vehicles and prevent carjackings that have been occurring all too frequently throughout our state,” Giannoulias said.

More than 1,600 armed carjackings were reported in the city last year, which marked an 11% decrease from 2021 – but was still higher than any other year dating back at least two decades.

Chicago carjacking reports more than doubled from 603 in 2019 to 1,413 in 2020. They hit an apex of 1,849 in 2021. More than 250 have already been reported this year.

“The Chicago Police Department continues to make every effort to keep Xhicagoans and their property safe. That’s why this investment is so important,” said Antoinette Ursitti, CPD chief of detectives.

The announcement comes as Illinois Attorney General Kwame Rauol and nearly two dozen other attorneys general called on auto makers Kia and Hyundai to take action to remedy the vehicles that allows the cars to be more easily stolen.

The fund are for use next year.

Meanwhile, Hendren is still processing a range of emotions including anger as he hopes to be able to get his beloved dream car back.

“I feel like there is nowhere you can go and be certain you are safe, and something needs to be done about that,” Hendren said.

Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire – Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2023.)

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