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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on Sunday announced the creation of a task force in response to a 52% increase in reported carjackings across Marion County in 2021 compared to 2020.

IMPD said the new Carjacking Task Force will work to combat the surge they have seen and will consist of IMPD robbery detectives, FBI Violent Crimes Task Force officers and special agents with the FBI. The department said it is working diligently to identify, locate, arrest and deter people involved in these violent acts.

“We’ve noticed that carjackings have been up substantially in the beginning in the year,” said Captain Dulin Nelson of IMPD’s robbery branch.

“Looking at numbers, we’ve made some proactive adjustments to how we operate trying to reduce the numbers,” said Nelson. “We’ve had some success. We’ve brought them down from what is extremely high to what is still high.”

In the first six months of 2021, IMPD said there were 112 carjacking incidents logged, but only 20 of those cases had resulted in arrests.

Of all suspects arrested for carjacking in the first six months of 2021, 52%, or 13 of the 25 suspects, were juveniles, according to IMPD.

“We find it disturbing that, I believe in the area of 52% these carjackings have been committed by juveniles,” said Nelson.

What’s even more concerning is that a large portion of the suspects weren’t legally allowed to drive. To be specific, eight out of 25 (32%) juveniles arrested for their alleged roles in 2021 carjacking incidents have been under the age of 16.

“They could be destroying their future, their lives, before their lives even start,” Nelson said. “Again, we’re hoping to deter these youngers from continuing to commit such crimes.”

Through the task force, IMPD said it will work with its federal partners to help solve these violent crimes.

“They have some resources we don’t have, we have some information they might not have, so when we put it all together, it’s a big, happy family where we can help solve crimes,” said Nelson.

He shared that part of the advantage of the task force is the ability to present some of these cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where if convicted, a person could face much harsher penalties, including a federal prison sentence with potential to be much lengthier than if convicted on state-level charges.

According to IMPD, suspects arrested for robbery as a result of carjacking will have their case presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for review. As a result, a person could be charged for being in violation of federal law under Title 18 of the United States Code 2119.

If that were to happen, a person convicted of the crime, where no serious bodily injury is involved, could face up to 15 years in federal prison, up to 25 years if serious bodily injury is involved, and the potential for up to life in prison if death results during the crime.

“We’re hoping that it will be a big deterrent, that they will find something else to do instead of risking their future, taking the chance of committing these serious crimes,” Nelson shared.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office released a statement on Monday to FOX59.

Partnerships between local, state and federal authorities are an important aspect of increasing public safety for the city of Indianapolis and elsewhere. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is pleased to confirm the existence of strong relationships with its law enforcement partners, relationships which will be utilized to address serious criminal offenses, including car-jacking.

U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Southern Indiana

FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan also shared a statement with FOX59 following the announcement of the new task force.

The primary focus of FBI Indianapolis continues to be helping foster a safer community where all residents can go about their daily lives without fear of falling victim to violent crime. This task force focused on carjackings is another way the FBI can partner with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to fight this problem and achieve that goal.

Paul Keenan, special agent in charge, FBI Indianapolis

Nelson said carjackings are violent crimes, where there is always a risk posed to the safety of more than just the victim of the crime.

“This also puts the carjacker at risk also, because these days with all of the weapons floating around, the victim may also pull out a weapon,” he said, also noting the potential for innocent bystanders to be injured.

Although this task force is new, it’s not the first time that IMPD and the FBI have teamed up to address carjackings in Indianapolis.

Back in March, IMPD detectives and the FBI arrested three juveniles suspected of committing a series of armed robberies and carjackings on the city’s west side. Police said the suspects were believed to be responsible for at least eight cases involving armed robberies of food and delivery drivers, with many of the crimes occurring near the Astoria Park Apartments on the city’s west side.

“We realized some success with that operation so we’re hoping to, you know, transfer that over to carjackings specifically,” shared Nelson.

IMPD also announced the arrest of five total juveniles in separate armed robbery and carjacking cases just one month prior, in February 2021. The arrests in this case were credited to being the result of a collaborative effort between IMPD Southeast District middle shift officers, the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, IMPD SWAT officers, and both IMPD K-9 officers and Southport officers.

Nelson said they are hoping to keep everyone safe and are working to make sure the roles of all involved in this new task force are well-defined.

“We should be in full effect by the end of the month,” he said.

Jared Presley, who is listed in an IMPD police report as the victim in a Sept. 2020 carjacking that happened downtown, said he is glad to see this task force being formed in Indianapolis.

Presley was visiting from out of town and had just wrapped up a long day of walking and exploring the city when he said went back to a parking garage, located on South Capitol Avenue nearby the Indiana Convention Center.

“Being from Cincinnati, like, Indianapolis always felt safe. There’s never any issues,” he said.

Presley said he sat in his car, locked the doors and started to charge his phone for several minutes when he heard a knock at his window. He said he assumed it was someone who works in the garage telling him he couldn’t stay there but soon learned that wasn’t the case.

“I know it was more than just two, but I saw two and one of them had a gun. I would say they were probably about 16, 17 years old. They were really young,” he shared.

Presley said the entire situation happened in the blink of an eye.

“They just said, like don’t scream, get out, and that’s what I did,” he explained.

According to an IMPD police report, officers noted that they were flagged down at a parking garage near Capitol Avenue and Maryland Street, where a person had just been carjacked at gunpoint.

Presley said the entire situation was surreal and he still can’t imagine why his car was taken in the first place. He said IMPD notified him that his car had been located.

Photo of Presley’s car with damage

“I was lucky to get the car back several days after that point they found it. Yes, there was damage to it, and it’s annoying having to get it out of the tow place. You have to pay for that,” he said.

In hindsight, Presley said he feels lucky because he knows he could have been injured or worse, but he said there were sentimental items that no amount of money could replace that were missing when the car was found.

“There were things in the car that were sentimental to me that was stolen, that if I had known how to rather just give them money,” he said. “There was a couple things in the car that really were priceless as far as sentimental value. Then again, my life is more important than any of that.”

Presley said he is a forgiving person but hopes that people understand what they’ve done when they engage in these types of crimes and find a way to better themselves.

“I’m not so much mad at them, in retrospect, I just wish they’d realize all of the damage they’re really doing to somebody,” he said.

There have not been any arrests in Presley’s case, IMPD confirmed to FOX59. Presley said he is thankful he escaped without injury. He has not returned to Indianapolis since the incident.

Nelson’s advice is there is no life worth losing, and he says that people should comply, hand over the keys and get out of the vehicle as soon as they can if they ever find themselves in this type of situation.

Nelson said there is no one specific area where these crimes are happening. Places like gas stations and parking garages are targeted more commonly, so he encourages everyone watch their surroundings and take steps to protect their belongings when at places like this.

IMPD reminds anyone who has information on a crime or carjacking that they can always call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-TIPS or IMPD robbery detectives.