According to Chicago police sources, there have been at least 120 carjackings in the city since the beginning of the year - that's only 18 days.
One of the latest carjackings took place in the 4000-block of W. Lawrence, when police say a 35-year-old man's sedan was stolen at gunpoint around 6 p.m. Monday.
Employees said the man had just pulled into the Albany Park Walgreens parking lot when store security cameras captured someone running up to the car. They say the driver clearly rushed out, and as the thief tore out of the lot in the man's car, they say victim bolted inside the store for safety.
This carjacking adds to a quickly growing list that police are struggling, and so far failing, to keep up with.
"Many times we have individuals - whether it's a juvenile or an adult - that run up, they are masked due to the pandemic and have a hoodie that covers everything but the whites of their eyes, they stick a gun in their face and take their car," said CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.
"Immediately two men got out of a tan SUV, one of them came running up to me, and I remember saying, 'please do not hurt me.' Begging for my life," said carjacking victim Kelly Milan. "He just kept saying, 'where are your keys - where are your keys?'"
Milan is now one of hundreds of carjacking victims, as reported incidents pop up across the city. It's a scenario that is becoming all too common in the city of Chicago.
"It all happened so fast," she said.
SAFETY TIPS: What to do if you're approached by a carjacker
Milan said she was carjacked on Friday morning. She said she had just pulled up in front of a Hyde Park elementary school when three men surrounded her car, stole her keys, then took off.
"It is happening everywhere," Milan added. "It does not matter where you are or what neighborhood you are in. It is happening."
Erin Grobel's story is similar, except this time it was in the Wicker Park area. She said she was carjacked on Saturday afternoon by an armed teenager.
"[A] car pulls up really quickly behind me and two teenagers came out and I was trying to lock the door and start the car all at the same time," she recalled.
Within seconds, the crew was gone and so was Grobel's car.
"It is playing out in my head that it could have been so much worse," she said.
Chicago police confirm at least five carjackings were reported in the city's Wicker Park neighborhood over the weekend.
In the first incident, police said a 32-year-old woman was sitting in the driver's seat of a car in the 1200-block of N. Milwaukee when two suspects approached and physically removed her from the vehicle around 1:25 p.m. Saturday. Around 7 p.m. Saturday, a 50-year-old male rideshare driver said he was carjacked by two men who implied they had a weapon in the 1400-block of N. Leavitt around 7 p.m. Around two hours later, a 40-year-old male rideshare driver said he was carjacked by two men he believed were his passengers who flagged him down in the 1100-block of North Winchester. Another rideshare driver, a 29-year-old male, told police he too was flagged down by two men he believed to be his passengers around 10:35 p.m. in the 2100-block of West Charleston. Police said the men got into the backseat of the vehicle, then showed the driver a weapon and began making threats. Police said another male rideshare driver was targeted by two men who flagged him down in the 1700-block of W. Le Moyne just before 4 a.m. A 41-year-old woman told police she was working delivery when two armed carjackers attempted to steal her vehicle in the 1200-block of W. Columbia around 7:25 p.m. Sunday, but she was able to scare them off.
"Now with this huge uptick in carjackings, it appears that many of them are just taking the cars, using them for 24 hours, and then dumping the cars and moving to another carjacking," Deenihan said.
43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith is now pushing for more to be done. She's hosting an online forum with police so people can learn more about the brazen attacks.
"This is not random, it is organized," Ald. Smith said. "There are groups involved in this and this is what we need information about."
Smith announced the forum on Saturday. Moments later, she said there were two more carjackings in her ward, which includes Lincoln Park and some of the Gold Coast.
"Now 10 carjackings in my ward since December," Ald. Smith said.
So, where are the offenders taking the stolen cars? Chicago police said the criminals, who are usually teens, use them as getaway cars to commit more crimes.
"But there are vehicles being carjacked and are subsequently being used in shootings, or additional robberies," Deenihan said. "And then lastly, it is not a higher percentage, but there are certain cars, higher-end cars, that they are taking the cars and selling them retagged in different states and overseas."
Ald. Smith said her forum will be hosted on Feb. 2 and she plans to include the state's attorney's office in the conversation.
Weekend carjackings reported in western suburbs
The trend is also growing out in the suburbs. Just in the last 48 hours, there have been carjackings reported in Naperville, Aurora and an attempted carjacking in Elmhurst.
Just in the last 48 hours, there have been carjackings reported in Naperville, Aurora and an attempted carjacking in Elmhurst.
The Aurora attack left a woman in critical condition after police say she was shot as the offenders stole her car in the parking lot of this Wendy's.
Investigators said the offenders are tied to at least one other carjacking this weekend.
Aurora police are still working to track down the victim's car and those who were involved.
Police are asking for the public's help locating the vehicle stolen from Aurora. It is described as a red 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe with Illinois license place AE89203.
Back in Chicago, alderman are pushing to meet with the City to address the spike in carjackings.
In December, police said the City of Chicago saw the number of carjacking more that double from 2019 to 2020.
Police say carjackings are often crimes of opportunity, and the opportunities appear to be on a dramatic rise.
According to Chicago police, there were at least 1,236 carjackings in 2020; an increase of 134% over the same time last year. It's also the highest number since 2002.
It's unclear what's behind the increase, but authorities say many of the perpetrators are juveniles, who face less serious legal consequences.
If you find yourself about to become the victim of a carjacking, police advise you cooperate with the bad guys and remember your vehicle is just property; it's not worth risking your safety or life.