ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — It can happen in the blink of an eye. One moment, you’re pumping gas. You turn away from your car to enter the credit card information, and suddenly, a stranger is driving away in your car.

That’s exactly what happened to Alexandria resident and owner of Queen Bee Designs, Allison Priebe.

“Just to tell you how quickly it happened, I hadn’t even gotten an entire gallon of gas pumped in the car. My bill for that incident was $2.28,” said Priebe.

That’s when Priebe looked up and saw a large man sitting in her seat. Before she knew it, he had locked her out and sped off.

“I jumped on the car and was screaming, ‘Get out of my car! Get off my car! Help, call 9-1-1!'” she said.

Priebe is one of many victims of carjacking and stolen auto incidents in the greater D.C. region. The Arlington Police Department says the county has reported 18 carjackings since January 2020.

“In the majority of these cases, the suspects are targeting individuals as they are sitting in a parked car or they are exiting a parked car,” said Ashley Savage, Public Information Officer for the Arlington County Police Department.

Surrounding areas, such as Washington, D.C., have seen an increase in carjackings by 143% between 2019 and 2020. However, Fairfax County has maintained fairly low rates, with four carjackings reported since November — two of which were by the same criminal. The Alexandria Police Department also said that this has been the only case of a stolen car in 2021.

Savage says there are a few key ways to protect your car.

“When you park, exit your vehicle and continue to your destination promptly after parking. Don’t remain in your vehicle and don’t linger around the vehicle,” she said. “Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas if possible.”

Priebe advises others to stay vigilant.

“People are desperate, they’re looking for money and we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves, and our families and property,” she said.

The Alexandria Police Department released security-camera photos of the suspects who stole Priebe’s car. They are asking anyone with information to contact them as the investigation continues.