DC police chief calls for ‘accountability’ on juvenile crime

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said at a briefing Thursday that juvenile crime in the District is still a serious concern and called for more accountability.

He cited carjacking arrests specifically, saying that of the 18 arrests this year, 14 were juveniles.

Last year, according to Contee, there were 149 carjacking arrests — and 100 of those were juveniles.

“We have to look at the case beyond the point of arrest, and see what is actually happening. And what does that measure of accountability look like?” Contee said. “I would dare say that the numbers are probably even greater than that.”

Contee said that it isn’t a matter of arrests not being made, but it might be a need to make “adjustments in the system.”

“Is it that, perhaps, maybe this particular young person is not ready to be in community at this particular time? And we have to figure out some alternative for that young person,” Contee said.

As for why kids are doing it, Contee said: “I think it runs the gamut. And to be honest with you, some of them do it for fun.”

“I know that when young kids feel like there’s no consequences, a kid who carjacked somebody today … if there’s no consequence … in the form of, ‘Hey, look what’s happening to my buddy who did A, B and C and you know, I see my buddy back out in community,’ that could be a problem.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said there are “parts of this system that aren’t holding the whole ecosystem accountable.”

In response to the mayor’s comments, the Office of D.C.’s Attorney General offered this statement:

“The Office of Attorney General aggressively prosecutes all violent crimes committed by juveniles where we have strong evidence, as the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, and where the arrest process is constitutional. Anyone, including young people, who commit violent crimes should be held accountable. And we help them get the services and support they need so they are less likely to re-offend which makes our communities safer. The increases in violence including homicides over the last several years require leadership and a clear, consistent, all-hands-on-deck response. Everyone who has a role in keeping our city safe needs to work together, not point fingers.”

Bowser also said part of the effort to prevent any juvenile violence is to make sure the District’s children are “engaged.”

“That’s why we’ve been so adamant about getting kids in school, in-person, so that they can be around adults. Maybe that kid has some mental or behavioral health issue that needs to be addressed. We can better figure that out if they’re in school,” Bowser said.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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