- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

A crew of carjackers is still at large after a weekend crime spree in Northwest, where they stole four cars at gunpoint, D.C. police officers said yesterday.
Fourth District police officers pursued a vehicle into Hyattsville on Sunday, arresting six juveniles four females and two males for unauthorized use of a vehicle, but they are not suspects in the carjackings, Sgt. Joe Gentile said.
In each of the four carjackings in the Petworth area one on Saturday and three on Sunday witnesses said four or five men using a sport utility vehicle were involved, said Sgt. Gentile.
"It's not a normal occurrence," Sgt. Gentile said of the four seemingly related carjackings. He did not say whether police have any suspects in the crimes.
"We're working on some information, but I can't go into details," he said. A task force designed to investigate carjackings is working on the case.
Sgt. Gentile did not speculate on possible motives for the recent rash of carjackings, but explained the most common reasons for vehicle theft.
"They take the car to use the car for a crime, to try and sell it, or to try and strip it of parts and sell them," he said.
The first carjacking occurred at 1:40 a.m. Saturday, when two men in a blue Chevrolet Impala blocked a white Ford Excursion in the 600 block of Upshur St. NW, forced a couple from the vehicle at gunpoint using a shotgun, and made off with the SUV.
The driver of the Excursion was an off-duty male Montgomery County police officer and the passenger was an off-duty female D.C. police officer. The Montgomery County officer's badge and the D.C. officer's .38-caliber revolver were in the stolen SUV.
At 1:16 a.m. Sunday, the carjackers blocked a Yellow Cab in the 200 block of Varnum St. NW. Two men approached, one brandishing a handgun, and forced the driver from the taxi, a Chevrolet Caprice.
The carjackers struck again just before 5:30 a.m. in the 300 block of Upshur St. NW, taking a silver 2000 Ford Expedition from an elderly man. He had left the engine running and was standing outside the car when two men approached, one with a handgun, and took the vehicle. The victim was not injured, police said.
At about 7 a.m. in the 3400 block of Holmead Place, carjackers took a white 1999 Lincoln Town Car from another elderly man. The attackers blocked the Lincoln before two men, one with a handgun, forced the driver out.
The Yellow Cab was recovered by police on Sunday in the unit block of Franklin St. NE. No other vehicles have been recovered.
Sgt. Gentile offered several tips to drivers on how to protect themselves from carjackers. When in the car, drivers should keep their windows up and their doors locked, and should always try to keep enough room around their car so they can maneuver, whether they are stopped or moving.
Police have found that certain locations, such as gas stations and ATM machines, are targeted by carjackers.
"You have to be careful in those places," he said.
Drivers can only try to prevent these crimes, however. Sgt. Gentile said, "If someone has a weapon, trying to take your car, give them your car and flee the scene, because it's not important to die over a piece of metal."
He said it is important for drivers to know their own license plate numbers so, if victimized by carjacking, they can call police and have them quickly broadcast that information to partol officers.
Anyone with information about these car thefts is asked to call D.C. police at 800/673-2777.

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