Carjackings have become more and more prevalent, especially since cars with the advent of anti-theft devices that make cars more difficult to steal. Locally, there have been a number of carjackings in Bloomfield. Essex County wants to make the serious crime of carjacking less attractive to criminals by showing severe consequences carjackers face. To that end, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Newark Police Director Samuel A. DeMaio announced the launch today of a joint anti-carjacking public awareness campaign.
“Carjacking is not the same as taking a stolen car for a joyride,” said Acting Prosecutor Murray. “When you pull out a gun or force someone out of their car unwillingly that is a serious crime and the penalties are severe if you are convicted. We want to send that message to young people who sometimes seem to view carjacking as nothing more than a theft.”
“Carjacking is the fastest growing and potentially the most dangerous of crimes against persons and property,” added Sheriff Armando Fontoura.
Billboards promoting the message of the campaign will be placed in Newark at 4th Avenue and Broadway; 61 Pennsylvania Avenue at the intersection of Parkhurst; and 97 Sussex Avenue.
In 2009, Essex County had just over 200 carjackings. Every year that number has continued to climb. In recent years, there have been more than 400 carjackings countywide. These crimes occur in the early morning hours and late at night. Sometimes they involve high-end cars, but very often modestly priced vehicles are targeted.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office indicted eight defendants in recent weeks in carjacking cases. They include the following defendants:
Faquan Martin, 35, of Irvington, was indicted on 11 counts including conspiracy, carjacking, weapons possession, eluding and resisting arrest following an event on Nov. 20, 2012 in Newark. In addition to carjacking, Martin fled from the police causing a crash and creating a risk to the public.
Kalik Hollis, 19, and Andre Spencer, 19, both of East Orange, were both indicted in a seven-count indictment. Spencer is accused of carjacking someone in Belleville on Oct. 1, 2012. He is also accused of robbery. Hollis was indicted on knowingly receiving a 2006 Toyota Corolla. He is also charged with fleeing when the Belleville Police attempted to stop him.
Terrell Walker, 19, of Irvington, and Malcolm Smith, 20, of Newark were indicted for a Nov. 26, 2012 carjacking in Newark. In addition to carjacking they are charged with aggravated assault and robbery. Walker is also charged with committing another carjacking in Newark on Dec. 19, 2012.
An 11-count indictment was returned charging Donald Moore, 19, of Newark, Messiah Arrington, 19, of Newark, and Magid Wheeler, 18, of Newark with various crimes related to a Jan. 6, 2013 carjacking. Wheeler and Arrington were involved in the carjacking of a 2013 Honda Accord. Three days later Moore fled in the same Honda, resulting in a police chase.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been working with investigators and prosecutors at the federal, state and local levels to select carjacking cases that are appropriate for federal prosecution. Since the formation of the anti-carjacking task force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted 37 defendants. Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced charges against five Essex County men for carjacking and related crimes.
Significant sentences arising out of federally prosecuted carjackings, and at which federal Bureau of Prisons facility those convicted are serving their time, include:
• Jahlil Thomas (who is featured on one of the billboards), 262 months; serving his sentence in Beaver, W.Va.
• Jerome Conover, 181 months; Ray Brook, N.Y.
• Taj Elliot, 147 months, Coleman, Fla.
• Amonra Jackson, 120 months, Beaumont, Texas.
• Alhakim Young, 130 months, Inez, Ky.
• Jermaine May, 118 months, Bruceton Mills, W. Va.
• Jirrod Parker, 150 months, Inez, Ky.
The federal charge of carjacking or attempted carjacking carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison; 25 years in prison if serious bodily injury results; and life in prison or the federal death penalty if death results. Using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence carries a minimum consecutive term of five years in prison if a firearm is possessed, seven years in prison if a firearm is brandished, 10 years in prison if a firearm is discharged and a maximum of life in prison. Each of these charges also carries a maximum $250,000 fine. There is no parole in the federal system.
“In addition to putting would-be criminals on notice, we want to alert the public to be cautious,” Prosecutor Murray said. “Don’t leave the keys in your car even to run in and drop the baby off at the babysitter’s. Don’t leave your doors unlocked as you drive around. Be alert. Be smart,’’ she added.