Authorities say increase in carjackings may be gang related

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 21, 2007

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. and AUGUSTA, Ga.---North Augusta Public Safety officers are still looking for two carjackers. Investigators say a Toyota Tundra was carjacked from a man's driveway in the Rapids subdivision off Martintown Road and another man's car was taken from the Plaza Place apartments. Both incidents happened Tuesday night.

Christine Hair says she's always had a big fear of being carjacked with her kids in the car. It has never happened to her, but the fear alone has given her a reason to be cautious.

"When I walk up to my car, I look in all the windows to make sure nobody's laying in there. I guess I watch too many movies," she says.

But for James Corey and his family, the feeling is so real. Corey was carjacked by two men right in front of his North Augusta apartment Tuesday night. His wife and baby daughter were inside the home.

"I was actually praying to god for the first time, praying to god, please don't shoot me, please," he told us.

Investigators were able to recover his car, but the thieves got away. Investigators are taking on cases like these more these days.

Richmond County authorities report seventeen carjackings so far this year, including two near the Augusta Mall. Gary Murphy is still wanted for carjacking two women and going on a shopping spree with their credit cards earlier this month.

North Augusta authorities report a rise in this type of crime too. Chief Lee Wetherington say there's a reason why.

"It's not quite as easy to go out and steal cars in the middle of the night like it used to be, so a lot of these folks and a lot of these gangs have taken that on as a part of their initiation process," he says.

Investigators say each case is different. Some crooks look for cars, others for car parts, or just cash. They also say its happening during day and night hours.

"You kind of have a false sense of security, because you look around, see a lot of people, and think nothing will happen," Hair says.

Tuesday night's second carjacking victim's vehicle is still missing. It's a maroon, four-door Toyota Tundra.

If you have any information, please call North Augusta Public Safety. You can call their Crime Watch anonymous tip line at 803-27-WATCH.

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