A DoorDash driver named Jeffrey Fang was returning to his van in San Francisco after completing a delivery last week when he noticed a stranger in his car. After a fight he told a local media, another person, an accomplice, took the wheel and left. Fang’s children, 4 and 1, were still tied inside.
Four hours later, after a frantic search by neighbors and law enforcement, the van was found in another neighborhood in San Francisco, with the children safe and unharmed inside.
Fang later Told The New York Times that it was difficult to find and pay for babysitting during peak dinner delivery hours, so he often took the kids with him while he worked for DoorDash. “Most people in the odd-job economy are trying to be successful,” he said. “We are doing what we can, but the odds are stacked against us. It is not easy. Often times we have to find a balance between impossible choices. “
Similar horrific scenes took place elsewhere. In January, two children from Washington, DC kidnapped during a carjacking when a parent has left the vehicle to make a Uber Eat delivery. They were also found unharmed. Also in Washington, a carjacker who swept the vehicle of an Uber Eats driver hit the delivery guy plus a woman and two children on a nearby sidewalk as he tried to walk away.
Across the country, local police departments say car hijackings are on the rise. The same goes for home deliveries amid the Covid pandemic. DoorDash announced its first quarterly profit, and Instacart, Uber eats, Grubhub, and Amazon all reported record activity.
Inevitably, some of these carjackings involve delivery drivers, who sometimes leave their cars running to drop off food or parcels. “We are seeing an increase in auto theft and theft across the country,” Danielle McDonald, law enforcement liaison for Uber, said at a press conference in Washington this week.
No one collects national data on carjackings; Local services often bundle car hijackings with other auto thefts or violent crimes. Grubhub and Uber say they keep track of crimes targeting drivers, but they declined to share details. The exact figures are therefore difficult to find.
But the local figures are discouraging. Minneapolis Police reported 405 carjackings in 2020, more than three times the number in 2019. Louisville, Kentucky, police said they saw 30 carjackings in July, compared to four in the same month a year earlier. In Washington, DC, car hijackings rose 143% last year, according to local law enforcement. Neighboring Montgomery County, Maryland, issued a warning in January about an increase in car hijackings, many of which involved people who left their vehicles running while making food deliveries. Oakland, Calif., Police say car hijackings increased by 38 percent in the city last year, and the victims included “delivery and carpooling drivers”.
Car hijackings in Chicago increased 135% in 2020, to 1,415. The Chicago Independent Drivers Guild, an advocacy group for carpool drivers, says dozens of Chicago transportation and delivery workers have been victimized. car thieves in recent months. “We are driving with targets on our backs,” Kevin Nelson, IDG organizer and hail-rider driver, said in a statement.
Delivery people are particularly vulnerable to carjacking, and particularly right now, says Michael Cherbonneau, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of North Florida who studies street crime. “They are not from the region, they may not know him, they can leave their car running to drop off packages,” he says. Interrupting routines during the pandemic could also make delivery drivers more vulnerable. There may be fewer people on the street. And many people are wear masks, drivers are therefore less vigilant when a masked person approaches them, giving a potential thief the element of surprise.