Armed children as young as 10 years old have helped carry out at least 16 carjackings across Chicago in the last few weeks, according to police.
Officers were forced to issue an alert on the incidents after a spate of carjackings in parking lots and at gas stations in the South Side area between June 23 and July 18.
Their warning comes amid an uptick in violent crime in the city and as President Donald Trump and Mayor Lori Lightfoot clash over federal troops being sent in.
On Tuesday, 15 people were wounded in a shooting outside a funeral home. A three-year-old girl was also hospitalized in serious condition after being shot in the head in a separate incident early Wednesday, police said.
One carjacking victim, Alyssa Blanchard, 44, told Fox 32: ‘I’m scared to use my garage. I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood. I was just scared for my life. I thought, ‘this is it’.’
A gang of boys held guns to her head as she drove into her garage. After taking her car they also drove $300 in cash from her purse.
Blanchard’s stolen BMW was then said to have been used to steal a Lexus from a 21-year-old female driver in the parking lot of nearby Trinity Hospital.
In two of the incidents the boys are said to have fired their guns but no injuries were reported.
In a statement police said no arrests have been made.
They describe the gang members as African Americans between 5 foot and 5 foot 10 inches tall with thin builds and between 10 and 17-years-old.
President Donald Trump is set to escalate his federal intervention in cities like Chicago Wednesday by expanding ‘Operation Legend,’ deploying FBI and other agents there to quell what he claims is out of control violence.
The move was to be announced Wednesday afternoon by the president at the White House. It puts him once again at odds with Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot, after threatening to sue if Trump acted without her permission, had noted on Tuesday that the city would be working with federal agents to fight crime.
The mayor has been skeptical of federal agents being sent to Chicago by Trump due to the controversy in Portland, Oregon, where the Trump administration sent federal officers after weeks of protests there over police brutality and racial injustice that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Lightfoot said she expects Chicago will receive resources that will plug into existing federal agencies that already work with the city, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Oregon’s governor and Portland’s mayor have expressed anger with the presence of the federal agents, saying that the city’s protests had started to ease just as the federal agents started taking action.
Trump has framed such protests in the nation’s large cities as a failure by ‘liberal Democrats’ who run them, praised the officers’ actions and said he was looking to send agents to other cities.
He pointed to rising gun violence in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, where more than 63 people were shot, 12 fatally, over the weekend.