Alert over armed carjackers targeting Lyft and Uber drivers in Minneapolis

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Rideshare drivers are being targeted in a series of carjackings in Minneapolis, according to a warning issued by police on Friday.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) sent out a citywide alert saying there's been a "pattern" of armed suspects robbing Uber and Lyft drivers — with "40+" incidents reported since mid-August.

12 of the carjackings have have happened in the last 7 days, according to a news release.

Police say most of the incidents have occurred in the 4th Precinct, which serves northwest Minneapolis. However, some incidents have happened in northeast and south Minneapolis as well.

According to the Friday alert, multiple incidents involved the assailants requesting a ride with a stolen phone, then asking the rideshare driver to "wait a few minutes" when they arrive for the pick-up.

Police say a group of armed individuals "may arrive in one or more stolen vehicles" to block in the victim's car, demanding the driver exit the vehicle as well as taking their wallet and phone.

Some drivers have been assaulted in this incidents, including being pistol-whipped, the alert says.

At that point, "the group of armed individuals leaves in the vehicles they arrived in and take the ride-share vehicle, as well."

MPD says rideshare operators should "stay aware of their surroundings," avoid using a phone "for more than a couple of seconds" and be "extra cautious if asked to wait for the customer(s)."

Additionally, police recommend leaving the scene "if you see one or more vehicles or individuals approaching nearby."

Some other tips for those who find themselves the victims of such crimes:

- Give up the vehicle - do not fight to keep the car.

- If you are confronted by an assailant(s), remain calm, do not argue.

- Along with a description of the suspect(s), try to remember any unique physical characteristics (scars, limp, acne, teeth, manner of speech, etc...).

- Never pursue fleeing assailants - provide information and suspect(s) descriptions to responding officers.

- If video surveillance equipment is available, please save a copy of the incident for investigating detectives.

- If approached by a witness to the incident, request contact information.

- Contact 911 immediately and remain on scene, if possible.

This comes amid an ongoing wave of carjackings across the Twin Cities and the U.S., one of many symptoms of the social and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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