BALTIMORE -- Police in Baltimore are investigating dozens of rideshare carjackings and robberies over the past month but have seen more cases despite several arrests, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Wednesday.
In many cases, an active rideshare driver’s car and phone are stolen and the carjacker then poses as a driver, using the rideshare app to pick up unsuspecting riders, who are robbed through mobile payment apps or taken to ATMs to withdraw cash, Harrison said at a news conference.
“These incidents involve both drivers and customers, with multiple incidents where victims were forced into the vehicle, essentially being kidnapped, and then driven around to various areas,” Harrison said.
There have been 39 such cases since Nov. 22 and the most recent case was on Tuesday, he said. Six teens with ties to 12 of the cases have been arrested, Harrison said. Four of the six, who range in age from 15 to 18, have prior arrests and there are two open warrants for one more suspect, he said. Another nine people have been arrested in relation to other crimes linked to the rideshare carjackings, Harrison said.
“While we have made some arrests, we saw it continue so we know that there are more people out there who have not yet been arrested,” he said, calling on people to help police identify the perpetrators.
The carjackings and robberies have been happening primarily in the department’s southern district, but they are also crossing into neighboring Baltimore County, Harrison said. The suspects, male and female juveniles, often work in pairs or groups, he said.
“It is important for our riders to be able to get around, especially in colder months, to buy groceries, to go to work, to run errands. And therefore this is absolutely a top priority for all of us,” Harrison said. “We must protect the quality of life of our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers.”
Uber encouraged riders to double check the details of their ride before getting in and for users to cancel trips if they don’t feel safe.
“The reported attacks are horrifying,” Uber said in a statement. ”We’re in close touch with law enforcement to support their continued investigation and worked with them to send safety tips to riders and drivers in the Baltimore area.”
Calling the crimes “absolutely unacceptable,” Lyft said in a statement that it has also been in touch with law enforcement and had offered support to impacted drivers.
“Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and the incidents described are deeply troubling," Lyft said.
City police have updated carjacking protocols to get information on these incidents in real time, uploading information to the department’s license plate reader system and getting information to patrol officers to look out for these vehicles, Harrison said.
The FBI is working with city police and has opened several investigations involving numerous individuals, according to Special Agent in Charge Thomas Sobocinski of the FBI’s Baltimore field office. The department is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General to prosecute these cases, Harrison said.