Billboards cropping up around Detroit and Flint remind motorists to think again before stealing a car.
The federal government’s aim in an anti-carjacking billboard campaign is to remind criminals that that jacking someone’s car may be punishable by up to life in prison or even death, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“The offenders are often stunned when they find out the kinds of penalties they face,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said at a news conference Monday. “We’re hopeful that if would-be criminals have this information, it’ll have a powerful deterrent effect.”
Carjackings are reportedly down in both Flint and Detroit, but are still too high to tolerate, McQuade said. So far this year in Detroit, 167 carjackings have been reported, compared with 180 during the same period last year. Only one carjacking has been reported in Flint so far this year, compared with 12 last year and 19 in 2012.
At the news conference, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said carjacking is a bigger problem in Detroit than even in Los Angeles, where he previously worked, or in Cincinnati, where he rarely encountered the problem.
“In LA ... it was almost an anomaly to hear about carjackings,” he said. “This is unique, in some respects, to Detroit.”
Billboards on northbound I-75 at Holbrook, westbound I-94 at Schaefer and on North Saginaw in Flint warn that “carjacking is a straight ride to prison.”
In 1992, Congress approved penalties of up to 15 years in prison for armed carjacking, 25 years if someone is seriously injured, and life in prison or the death penalty if someone is killed. An extra five years is added if a gun is used. If it’s fired, that could add another decade to a prison sentence.
McQuade said that under some circumstances, such as a carjacking that ended in someone’s death or involved a gun, she might consider asking for the death penalty.