Police in DC, Prince George’s Co. team up against repeat carjacking teens

Prince George’s County, Maryland, and D.C. leaders are exasperated and worried for their residents’ safety as the number of carjackings, committed largely by teenagers, continues to escalate. Now they’re banding together to try and put a stop to the crime.

In announcing a task force of leaders and law enforcement with D.C., Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks noted the number and severity of carjackings has increased. She said residents’ safety is being threatened not only in gas stations and convenience store parking lots, but also in their own driveways.

“We know that the juvenile system’s aim is to rehabilitate children. They are not being rehabilitated, because they’re out in our communities, harming our residents, terrorizing them, traumatizing them, and they have been traumatized themselves. And so whatever we’re doing, the point of this is that it is not working nearly well enough,” Alsobrooks said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said she supported the teamwork it took to create the law enforcement effort between two jurisdictions.

“This is not just a regional effort between governments and police departments; it’s about bringing our communities together so that we can keep each other safe and give everyone, regardless of which neighborhood or jurisdiction you live in, the opportunity to thrive,” she said at the news conference Wednesday announcing the task force.

Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said that in 2020, his county had 263 carjackings; in 2021, 393. And he highlighted the role teenagers are playing in the crime — last year, his officers arrested 86 kids.

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said 100 kids were arrested and charged with carjacking last year.

“It’s the same kids,” Contee said, “but you can’t go into a D.C. court or Prince George’s County court and talk about what they did over in the other jurisdiction. Fundamentally, there’s a problem with that, and we have to make sure that collectively that problem is being addressed,” Contee said.

Contee pointed to a need for change across the entire justice system, including the decisions made by prosecutors and courts when it comes to releasing teens who are repeat offenders.

“How is it that a young person carjacked somebody today and in very short order, prior to the trial — and we know that with the COVID restrictions [the trial] could be a ways off — that that young person is back out in community? That is a problem. And I think that there is an issue there that we really have to examine whether the case is prosecuted or not.”

Aziz agreed there is a lack of accountability for teens who are repeat offenders, whom he described as “young people who have no fear of the consequences that are involved.”

By joining intelligence and investigative forces, Contee said, the task force will reduce violent crime. Contee also said more detectives will be added to the carjacking task force created in D.C. last year.

“We’re expanding our carjacking task force because it has demonstrated at the very minimum that we can connect cases and that we can take people into custody and we can lock them up for the carjackings that they commit in the community,” Contee said.

D.C. and Prince George’s will also embed officers in each other’s departments and work collaboratively to identify repeat offenders. The task force is also charged with pinpointing strategies to increase accountability for those responsible for committing violent crimes in the District.

Alsobrooks outlined the social services involved in the violence prevention task force in her county, which will work together with carjacking investigators.

“This group will also help us identify the concerns and needs of our families, including the needs at home,” Alsobrooks said. “And we understand why this is so important — you can’t heal children without also healing their families.”

Megan Cloherty

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

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