Drivers urged to lock doors, pay attention following carjacking conviction

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Updated: Jun. 11, 2018 at 7:27 PM EDT
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Michael Vest was found guilty of robbery. (Source: Clark County Sheriff's Office)
Michael Vest was found guilty of robbery. (Source: Clark County Sheriff's Office)

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - A man's conviction in the 2017 carjacking of a 17-year-old woman in Clarksville has residents focusing on safety.

Michael Vest was found guilty of robbery and being a habitual offender. Police said he approached a young woman sitting in her car on her phone as she waited for her shift to begin at Logan's Roadhouse.

Vest stole her car and was later arrested.

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"It was a carjacking in broad daylight," Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said. "He did grab her and rip her out of the car and steal it when she did not exit that car as quickly as he wanted her to."

Mull said he's glad to see a conviction on the books for Vest.

Carjackings like the one Vest was found guilty of can be frightening for many in the community. While they're not that common, experts say that doesn't mean the public shouldn't be prepared.

Safety expert D'Shawn Johnson said it's important for people to keep an eye on their surroundings instead of their smartphone when walking to get in the car. Then lock the doors immediately.

"Criminals take advantage of certain things, cover of darkness and not being seen by other people," Johnson said.

Look for lighted areas with security cameras to park when possible, Johnson said. Once people get in their car, he said not be distracted by checking a phone or the radio.

"That creates the opportunity," Johnson said. "Most carjackings you see are done for someone sitting in their car, the door was unlocked. Or someone gets out of the car, runs into the convenience store for a moment, come out and their car is gone. So you try to prevent those scenarios from happening just by locking your door."

If someone does try to steal the car, Johnson said it's important to comply with their demands. It's hard to know the robber's mental state or intentions with the attempted robbery, Johnson said, so it's important to focus on getting out of the situation safely.

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"Property can be replaced," he said. "Lives can't be replaced."

These tips may seem simple enough, but Johnson said often people are distracted when walking to their car or when they first get inside and don't think to follow them.

Simple awareness can help make sure people don't become an easy target for criminals.

Michael Vest could face up to 12 years in prison for the robbery and habitual offender convictions. He will be sentenced July 6.

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