Baltimore authorities on Wednesday announced the arrests of six teenagers in connection to a string of carjackings and robberies that have terrorized ride-sharing app users in recent weeks.
Police have teamed up with the FBI to investigate a total of 39 incidents involving ride-share apps, including carjacking, kidnappings and robberies, since November. Baltimore officials held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the results of their work, which have led to the arrests of six people between ages 15 and 18 linked to the crimes. All but two had prior arrests.
Authorities said there are two open warrants for an additional suspect in at least one of the ride-sharing incidents.
"In many cases like this, the suspects are described as juvenile males and females, often working in pairs or in groups," Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison told reporters at a news conference. "These incidents include both drivers and customers, with multiple incidents where victims were forced into the vehicle, essentially being kidnapped, and then driven around the various areas."
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Authorities described how ride-share users are victimized by assailants who carjack drivers, rob them and then use the driver's app to pick up new victims. Customers who call for a ride-share service like Uber or Lyft have been abducted and forced to withdraw cash from ATMs or use cash apps and robbed.
"Many of these people, if not all of them, have been severely traumatized because it's not just carjacking, it's a kidnapping, and then they're driving around to go to an ATM [and are] forced to withdraw money from ATM," Harrison said.
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FBI officials said these robberies happen quickly, with unsuspecting passengers being forced into the vehicle or divers being caught unaware.
"Give the criminals what they want – whether your car, your keys, your wallet – it is not worth risking your life to do this," said Thomas Sobocinski, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office.
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Last week, police announced the arrests of nine people suspected in a series of robberies involving ride-share vehicles, local news station WBAL-TV reported. Investigators said ride-sharing companies are working with authorities to bring these criminals to justice, using the latest surveillance technology to do so.
"We have updated our carjacking protocols to ensure that we can get information on these incidents in real time, upload information into our license plate reader system, and then provide information to patrol officers to look out for these vehicles," Harrison said.
Authorities reminded the public to take several safety precautions before using a ride-share app, including confirming the license plate, the car's make and model, and double-checking that the driver's identity matches the photo and identity in the app.