CommunityWilliam J. Ford

Regional Task Force Seeks Solutions to Rise in Area Carjackings

Programs Established to Reduce Disproportionate Number of Youth Offenders

A regional task force composed of federal and state prosecutors and law enforcement agencies has been established to combat the surge of carjacking which has been reported in the D.C. region.

Jonathan Lenzer, acting U.S. attorney for Maryland, said the criminal offense occurred more than double last year from what the region experienced in 2019 in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland and the District of Columbia. If the current trend continues, the number of carjackings this year could match or exceed the total reported in 2020.

“One challenge we are facing is the transient nature of these crimes,” Lenzer said during a press conference outside of the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. “Criminals are committing a series of carjackings and robberies spread out among different jurisdictions which can frustrate efforts to prosecute these criminals to the full extent of the law. We are tearing down the borders that carjackers use to conceal their trails of violence.”

The goal will be for state prosecutors to share information and resources and collaborate on cases within various jurisdictions.

A quarterly report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association highlights four crimes — homicides, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — that increased in certain jurisdictions between January and March of this year.

Approximately 63 of 70 law enforcement agencies reported 54,025 aggravated assaults in the first three months of this year. In comparison, during the same timeframe last year, officials reported 49,388.

Homicides nationwide also increased from 1,337 last year to 1,721 in the first three months of this year.

The report listed data from the District of Columbia, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland and Fairfax County in Virginia. According to the report, the figures are:

– D.C. — homicides: 44 in 2021 and 36 in 2020; rape: 33 in 2021 and 39 in 2020; robbery: 429 in 2021 and 408 in 2020; aggravated assault: 318 in 2021 and 360 in 2020.
– Fairfax County — homicides: three in 2021 and two in 2020; rape: 15 in 2021 and 15 in 2020; robbery: 71 in 2021 and 84 in 2020; aggravated assault: 49 in 2021 and 37 in 2020.
– Montgomery County — homicides: 12 in 2021 and three in 2020; rape: 69 in 2021 and 115 in 2020; robbery: 118 in 2021 and 94 in 2020; aggravated assault: 222 in 2021 and 177 in 2020.
– Prince George’s — homicides: 27 in 2021 and 23 in 2020; rape: 72 in 2021 and 48 in 2020; robbery: 281 in 2021 and 217 in 2020; aggravated assault: 262 in 2021 and 211 in 2020

As for carjackings, Channing Jennings, acting U.S. attorney for the District, said May 19 that 129 had occurred in the District which represents more than double during the same time frame last year.

In Montgomery County, State’s Attorney John McCarthy said 50 carjackings took place between July 2020 and January of this year. He said of the 18 arrests made from those crimes, 13 involved those younger than 21.

In neighboring Prince George’s, 102 carjackings have been reported so far this year, compared to 263 during all of last year.

Prince George’s police chief Malik Aziz said they are labeled aggravated robberies and a “serious felony crime that we have to address.”

Taking a ‘Holistic Approach’

Prosecutors said the offenses do not appear to be part of an organized criminal initiative. Instead, they represent the actions of those out to “joy ride” with most of the [vehicles] “later found abandoned.”

The offenses increased when the coronavirus pandemic affected the region in March 2020 when schools closed and some businesses shut down.

One proposal deals with a “holistic approach” with state’s attorney offices working with local social service agencies, schools and parks and planning departments.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy will hold a gun prevention and call-to-action rally Tuesday, June 1 at the City of Praise Family Ministries in Landover.

“We are going to hold our young people accountable because this behavior is not only a danger to the victims but also a danger to them,” she said. “If they confront the wrong person, it can end very badly for our young people as well. We want them to value their lives. We want them to value their future.”

One of the county’s most popular programs, Summer Youth Enrichment Program, will offer a few in-person sessions that include outdoor conversations and restoration activities for 14- and 15-year-old teens and food packing and distribution for those ages 16 and 17.

With COVID-19 vaccines more readily available and confirmed cases decreasing, 12 community centers reopened Monday, May 24 with outdoor pools scheduled to reopen Saturday, May 29. In addition, employment opportunities should be available for youth in the coming weeks for jobs that include lifeguards, camp counselors and community service hours for middle and high school students.

“We know that safe, supervised and fun recreational activities are an integral part of keeping our youth active and safe,” Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said in an email. “Our work speaks to the value of play and the importance of having recreational activities for all ages to thrive. We are anxious to welcome our young people back to our facilities once again — and offer activities to live more and play more.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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