Jugging: The New Crime Trend
March 20, 2023
Everyone knows what it’s like to have your hands full. It takes special skills to juggle bags, briefcases, electronics, and to-go coffee containers all while trying to unlock your car door. It feels like a badge of honor is earned when you lug all those grocery bags inside in one trip. But all of these distractions can put you at risk of being the victim of a scary new crime trend called “jugging,” and gas station and c-store owners need to be aware of its dangers.
Jugging refers to a robbery that happens after a victim has withdrawn cash from a financial institution or ATM, and then is followed to a second location. It is a relatively new term that hasn’t caught on everywhere yet, but police departments across the United States, from Alabama to Hawaii, have started warning folks about the uptick in cases. Suspects tend to target certain demographics before choosing someone to follow. Women, the elderly, or people who seem to have their hands full are sought out for this type of crime.
“You go to a bank, you conduct business, you’re followed, and then you’re assaulted, or you lock your car and go into another business after the bank errand, and your car is broken into,” said Detective Matthew Judd, a detective in the robbery unit of the Austin Police Department (APD), in a recent press conference.
Avoid Becoming a Stat
On Saturday, Dec. 12, 2022, APD officers responded to a jugging case at a gas station located on East William Cannon Drive. The victim of the jugging had visited a bank and withdrawn cash before pulling over to refuel and purchase items inside. Three suspects followed him from the bank to the gas station, and violently robbed him while he was inside the store. They also assaulted the man who was working behind the counter when he tried to intervene and help the victim.
On Dec. 28, 2022, four people were arrested after a jugging incident at a Texaco on Cluck Creek Trail in Cedar Park. The victim had just withdrawn cash before stopping at the gas station, where they were attacked and robbed. Thanks to the victim’s descriptions of the attackers and their vehicles, police spotted them in Fayette County, where they were pulled over and arrested. Police believe these four suspects are connected to several other jugging incidents around Austin.
But it’s not just customers who are targeted. Gas station and c-store owners have been victims of juggings as well.
In 2018, a woman whose family owns a gas station and check cashing business in Houston was the victim of a violent jugging after she withdrew $75,000 in cash and took it back to her workplace. She was followed from the bank by two vehicles who were both monitoring her financial institution and working as a team. The men in the vehicles ambushed her once she was walking through the gas station parking lot. Her husband ran out to help her, but the assailants beat both victims and ran over the woman with their car. Both victims were hospitalized, and the suspects were arrested shortly after the robbery and charged with felony aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
The idea of jugging is scary, but officials have suggested many tips to keep it from happening to you:
Be aware of your surroundings
Police officers stress that simply being aware of your surroundings is the most important step you can take to preventing being the victim of a crime. If you see someone acting suspicious in or around a financial institution, either leave and come back at a later time, or tell a security guard. Make a mental note of anyone loitering near your bank or where you parked your car, as they may be scouting for potential victims. For example, if you enter a bank and see someone sitting in their car and they are still there when you exit and then follow you out of the parking lot, that’s a red flag.
If you think you’re being followed, get help
If a car pulls out of a parking lot after you, and you think they’re still trailing you after a while, drive to the nearest police or fire station or call 911. Do not drive home or stop anywhere. Try to get a good description of the vehicle and the person driving it, if you can.
“If they think you have cash, they’re going to follow you wherever you go,” said Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, who works in the APD robbery unit. “Our dispatch has been advised about the jugging problem. They are aware, and they should send an officer.”
Don’t be distracted
While you’re in the bank lobby or parking lot, stay off your phone and ditch your ear buds. Juggers tend to look for people they can take by surprise. Walk with your head up and make it obvious you are aware of your surroundings. Try to have your keys ready to unlock your car so you’re not digging through a bag or pockets looking for them – those few seconds are long enough for a jugger to catch you off guard.
Disguise your cash
Don’t make it obvious that you’re leaving the bank with cash. If you have a cash bag, put it in a different bag, like a briefcase or backpack. Even if you just have an envelope with bills in it, be sneaky. Slip it in an interior jacket pocket. Just make sure you do this before leaving the bank lobby.
Security is your friend
If you are withdrawing a large amount of money, ask your bank if they have a security guard who can safely escort you back to your car, or at least give the parking lot a once over. This should make anyone scouting out the parking lot nervous. Once you do pull out of the parking lot, keep glancing in your rearview mirror to ensure no one is following you.
Lock your doors as soon as you get back into the car
Press that lock button the second you’re sitting. Don’t wait to buckle your seatbelt or find what playlist you want to listen to – those are distractions, and a jugger just needs you to be distracted for a second to make their move. Your car door being locked will buy you time to drive off if someone tries opening it from the outside.
“Sometimes in these juggings, the suspect will just run up, open the passenger door, grab the bag, and leave,” says Taylor. “Lock your doors all the time, even if you’re inside.”
Don’t leave money unattended
Taylor says to not make any stops in between withdrawing cash and your last destination, as that’s usually when juggings occur. If you do need to make a stop after withdrawing cash, do not leave the money in your car unattended, even if your car doors are locked. Windows can be broken, and the center console is not a secret hiding spot.
Taylor encouraged people to follow these tips to stay safe.
“No amount of cash is worth your safety or enduring an assault,” she says.
As you start thinking of safer banking practices, consider using less cash and use online baking more, use InsureYouKnow.org – an online information-safe, as a place to safely store details of your bank. This product gives you the ability to access documents, and files remotely – or from the comforts of your own home.