MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a crime that’s become so prevalent in the Twin Cities that police now have specific advice to help people to stay safe.

Carjackings have skyrocketed since last summer. There have been 51 so far this year in Minneapolis, but the issue extends well beyond the city’s borders.

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Monday evening, police said a driver in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood had a sense she was being followed by a gray Volvo SUV. When she got to the intersection of Mt. Curve Boulevard and Eleanor Avenue, she was rear-ended. Like most people, she got out of her car to assess the damage. That’s when police said a passenger in the SUV that hit her got out holding a gun, demanded money, and eventually stole her car.

The scheme is called “bump and rob” according to Richfield Police, who put on a guide Wednesday on how to avoid possible carjackings and react if you’re in the middle of one. If someone feels they might be targeted in a “bump and rob” style, Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder suggests staying in your car and possibly drive to a well-lit and populated area.

“You can call 911 as you’re driving to this new location and notify authorities, ‘Hey I just got rear ended. I’m not comfortable. I’m going up here to the shopping mall,’” Elder said.

(credit: CBS)

Another suggestion from police involves something officers learned in the academy. When pulling up to an intersection, leave at least one car-length of space between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. That way you have space to maneuver or escape if necessary. Police do this so they can quickly react if called to respond to a crime.

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“Always give yourself that buffer of distance, that’s so very important,” Elder said.

Also in St. Paul Monday, a driver was nearly carjacked or robbed in a different scheme. Police said the driver was parked near 525 Fairview Avenue South and was waiting in his car for his wife. A man approached the car and asked the driver for directions. Police said there was a language barrier in which the driver didn’t understand the question.

During that time, the person who approached the car turned around, put on a mask, then turned back toward the driver and pulled out a gun. The driver refused to get out of his car and drove away. Police said surveillance camera footage from a nearby business showed the gunman exit an SUV in the parking lot before approaching the parked driver.

In this situation, police want drivers to be wary of anyone approaching your vehicle. They suggest keeping the door locked and window up. When a person starts asking for directions or money, it could be a distraction that allows a second person to sneak up on the passenger side of your car.

Other tips offered in the Richfield Police guide on carjacking prevention include:

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  • Prior to parking your car in the street, make sure you aren’t being followed and that there aren’t suspicious people in the area. They even suggest pulling around the block a second time to make sure the area is safe.
  • Subscribe to family mapping, lost phone tracking and other GPS software that can help police locate your vehicle if stolen.
  • Don’t leave your car running unattended with the keys in the ignition, even if the doors are locked.

Click here to see the full guide.

Jeff Wagner