Government and law enforcement leaders in the District and Prince George’s County have joined forces to combat the recent rise in carjackings that have occurred in both jurisdictions.
On Feb. 2, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III joined Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and her police chief, Malik Aziz, to announce the joint partnership at the Marvin Gaye Park located in Northeast.
“We are focused in both jurisdictions on collaborating to make our communities safer for all people,” Bowser said. “We are particularly focused on how we reach our young people and engage them so they don’t get involved in violent activity, how we hold them accountable when they do and how we get them on a more productive and positive path forward.”
The issue of carjackings in the region became even more pronounced on Jan. 15, following the attack of a D.C. Council (D) at-large candidate at a gas station located in Northeast. After contacting the police, Nate Fleming talked about the crime on social media and the story went viral.
On Jan. 30, D.C. police announced a 17-year-old District Heights, Md. resident had been arrested in connection to the crime. Contee said the arrest resulted from collaborative efforts led by D.C. and Prince George’s County police. Fleming expressed satisfaction following the arrest.
“I’m pleased to see that MPD has made an arrest of one of the suspects in this incident,” Fleming said. “We know that in the majority of these carjacking, juveniles are the assailants. We need to attack juvenile violent crime comprehensively both in the short-term and long-term. In the past two weeks, there have been numerous carjackings throughout the District, including another one at the same gas station where I was carjacked and several carjackings in the blocks nearby. Urgent action is needed.”
In 2021, youth made up 85 of the 132 people arrested in the District for carjacking while in Prince George’s, 86 out of the 152 arrested consisted of minors.
Bowser said many of the young carjackers cross the District-Prince George’s County border to commit their crimes. Realizing many of the youth lack a strong direction in their lives, the mayor said the city offers activities that can distract them from crime such as sports, afterschool programming and employment opportunities.
In the District, the attorney general prosecutes juvenile offenders. Karl A. Racine, the attorney general, said in a Feb.1 email titled “Calling on All Leaders to Make D.C. Safer” that “we are prosecuting all violent crimes committed by juveniles where we have strong evidence.”
“Because convictions can only be secured where an arrest was constitutional and where proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, we prosecute the strongest possible case,” said Racine, who didn’t attend the news conference.
On Feb. 2, police announced that in addition to the 17-year-old boy, two other boys, 15 and 13, both also of District Heights, had been arrested and charged with multiple counts of armed robbery, attempted armed carjacking and assault. Allegedly, the boys engaged in a series of carjackings and assaults across both D.C. and Prince George’s, the bulk of which spanned an eight-hour period on one day.
Racine said the District government must get to the root of the violence. He said getting needy communities the resources they need so young people don’t have to turn to violence, curtailing the access to guns and rehabilitating youngsters from a life of crime should be the focus of city leaders.
Alsobrooks said youth carjackers are angry and traumatized, adding, “hurt people hurt people.”
“We have a number of programs in the county for our youth who need direction,” she said. “We have diversion and re-entry programs. the Rev. Tony Lee has a program, Hope in Action, designed to help young people and I have the Alsobrooks Summer Passport Experience program that helps youth to explore new ideas and possibilities. People need to step up because this must end.”
Contee said the District’s carjacking unit, which he formed in February 2021, will be expanded with more resources. He said part of that expansion includes posting more police officers on the shared border.
“Last year, there were 456 carjackings in the District,” Contee said. “We have to hold people accountable for their actions. We are finding that it is the same kids over and over. We have to put a stop to this. Play time is over.”
Aziz noted that in 2021, 393 carjackings occurred in Prince George’s. However, he believes arresting people won’t entirely solve the problem. .
“We can resolve these issues now by working with the city and their police department but we must get the information out to those officers because they play such a vital role,” he said.