DC-area carjackings rise due to lifestyle changes precipitated by coronavirus

Police in Maryland and D.C. have seen a steady increase in carjackings since the pandemic began last year.

They call it a crime of opportunity and believe closures and lifestyle changes forced by the coronavirus have contributed to the rampant rise in carjackings.

The close of 2020 saw carjackings up by 143% in D.C. compared to the year before, according to D.C. police data. In the first month of 2021, Montgomery County had 11 carjackings and attempted carjackings as compared with none in January 2020, said Montgomery County Police Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti.

“So we think, because of the pandemic, a lot of people were taking advantage of restaurants that were offering takeout, and you know, it was a perfect opportunity for these suspects to approach these people, as either they exited their vehicle or came back to their vehicles,” Innocenti said.

Many of them are teenagers who are not physically in school and are without after-school activities or sports to participate in due to health concerns, Innocenti said.

“We’re seeing younger suspects, some suspects, not even of a driving age, and we’re seeing a lot more violence. So we’re seeing these suspects, assault these victims, and present handguns. And when these suspects are being arrested, they are being found to be in possession of loaded handguns,” Innocenti said.

Because of that, she advises anyone who finds themselves confronted for their car to give the suspect what they demand and then immediately call 911.

“If someone approaches you and demands your keys, give up your vehicle. We don’t want people to resist or to put up a fight. It’s simply just not worth your safety or your life,” Innocenti said.

Six of the suspects arrested for carjackings that took place in January are facing charges, she said.

Fairfax County, Virginia, though, has not seen the same rise in carjackings.

“Between 11/01/2020 and 01/27/2021, there were four carjacking’s countywide. We did apprehend a juvenile in January that is believed to be linked to two of those offenses and other than that, we have not seen a significant spike,” said Fairfax County police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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