Juvenile arrests creep up in Montgomery County, with concern over weapons and carjackings

Capt. Marc Erme, director of criminal investigations for the Montgomery County Police Department. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

The number of juveniles being arrested in Montgomery County, Maryland, is down compared to 2019, but the nature of the crimes — and the ages of some of the juveniles involved — is what concerns police, prosecutors and the community.

In 2019, there were 1,646 arrests of juveniles in Montgomery County, according to data from the Montgomery County Police Department provided to WTOP. That number plummeted to 393 in 2021 — during the height of the pandemic — but has steadily climbed since then.

So far in 2023, there have been 690 arrests compared to 699 in all of 2022, according to the data.

Capt. Marc Erme, director of criminal investigations for Montgomery County police, said that juvenile crime “is a small portion of our crime overall,” but it’s the nature of the crimes committed that has raised continued concerns.

In a recent Montgomery County news release about a burglary in Silver Spring, juvenile suspects caught in surveillance images looked very young, and WTOP asked Erme about that. He had a similar impression.

No arrests have been made in that case — involving several burglaries at the Home Court retail shop in Silver Spring — so it’s impossible to know just how old those on the surveillance footage are.

But on the notion that very young juveniles, those who might still be in middle school, could be involved in crime, Erme said, “It’s not a surprise to me.”

He added, “As I review all of my detectives’ investigations, the individuals involved are getting younger and younger.”

The types of crimes committed by teens also has police and the public alarmed. In August, a 13-year-old was among a group of teens arrested in connection with a June carjacking in downtown Silver Spring.

In January, a 15-year-old was charged in a “strong-arm” carjacking in Germantown. Months later, in March, two teens, aged 16 and 17, were accused of the same type of carjacking — where physical force, but not a firearm — is involved.

Another area of concern, said Erme, has to do with juvenile access to guns.

“Our firearm violations among juveniles has risen over 220% in the last couple of years,” he said, adding “As of September, we’ve had 40 juvenile arrestees that have been carrying some kind of weapon or firearm.”

“I know my division has handled, you know, multiple shootings where juveniles have been involved,” said Erme.

Erme said when police talk to parents, they are often told the adults were not aware that their children were even out of the house. His message to parents: “Know what your kids are doing, know what they’re accessing on their phones, know who they’re hanging out with.”

In July, there was a town hall on crime and violence in Germantown, and Erme said he was impressed with the number of young people, including high school students, who turned out.

He said he’d like to see more, similar forums to continue an open dialogue with young residents. “So they can speak, you know, openly and freely — whether it’s good or bad, you know, we want to hear their voices,” because he said it could “help us make things better.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up