EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – The FBI and Illinois State Police warn rideshare drivers, such as Uber and Lyft, of a rise in carjackings in East St. Louis.
According to the FBI Springfield location and Illinois State Police, since late June, there have been seven rideshare carjackings in East St. Louis. One out of seven turned deadly.
“We do special details and assignments for that very reason to maintain high visibility in the community to try to be a deterrent for potential crime,” said East St. Louis Deputy Chief Ranodore Foggs.
Criminals are using fake profiles and lure drivers into dangerous areas.
When the driver arrives, their car is stolen, and sometimes the victim’s cell phone and/or wallet as well, according to law enforcement. The drivers are then left stranded in an unknown location.
Police warn drivers to verify and screen riders, do not accept third-party requests, be aware of pick-up and drop-off points, and let loved ones know where you are going.
“It’s a great idea, but not enough time you go from ride to ride to ride. If we had time to think about and scrutinize people, it would be really hard,” said Rick, a rideshare driver.
For the last four years, Rick has driven for Uber and Lyft and done more than 3,000 rides. In June, FOX 2 talked to Rick after he was carjacked at gunpoint, lured in, and stranded the same way officials describe.
He said safety has taken a back seat.
“It’s so scary, when you’re picking up somebody, you don’t have a clue who you’re picking up,” Rick said. “I mean it’s getting out of control because people aren’t getting caught.”
He said he has been the target of countless potential crimes since. The latest one was in Fairview Heights just last week.
“I’m thinking this looks like a vacant house, and just as I was about to take off, two guys in hoodies came out from behind the house and started running towards my car, so I hit the gas and took off and canceled the ride,” Rick said.
He suggested both companies screen riders, the way they do drivers to curb crime, but he has not heard back from them. Instead, he plans to take a break.
“How many people need to get killed before we say we have a heck of a problem,” Rick said.
A spokesperson from Uber said in a statement, “Safety is a top priority at Uber. We’ve pioneered many of the safety features that are standard in the industry today, including an in-app emergency button, GPS tracking on every trip, and the ability for drivers to share their location in real time with loved ones. Our work on safety is never finished, and we are committed to helping create safer communities for all.”
“Safety is fundamental to Lyft. We continuously invest in new products and policies to help protect drivers, and are exploring ways to expand the use of our safety features to help prevent these incidents from happening and support drivers if they do.” – Lyft Spokesperson
The public is encouraged to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately. Call FBI Springfield at 217-522-9675, or if immediate assistance is needed, dial 911.