More teenagers in Prince George’s County, Maryland, are charged with homicide so far this year than last year, and investigators hope the trend is not one that continues.
Reflecting on the latest case involving a teen, county police Maj. Brian Reilly called the case sad.
“It’s a 14-year-old that made a decision to arm himself with a knife to set up a robbery and then in the process of that robbery, he killed a man,” he said.
Romeo Cuellar, 14, is being charged as an adult in the stabbing death of 46-year-old Humberto Camacho earlier this month after calling for a ride in Chillum, Maryland.
Reilly commands the Criminal Investigations Division of the Prince George’s County Police Department, and oversees the investigation of homicides in the county. So far this year, they’ve investigated 18 killings, and of the cases solved, five involve seven defendants between the ages of 14 and 17.
Across the region, police departments report seeing an increase in teen participation in crime, specifically in carjackings and theft.
In Montgomery County, two teens were recently charged in a carjacking; in D.C., police are working with federal investigators to attempt to reduce car thefts, some of which have been committed by teenage drivers.
“We’re seeing younger suspects — some suspects not even of a driving age — and we’re seeing a lot more violence,” Montgomery County Police Sgt. Rebecca Innocente told WTOP recently.
Reilly said the increase in teens’ involvement in killings in Prince George’s County looks like an outlier compared with previous year’s arrests, and he doesn’t expect it to continue.
He said last year was a “low year” for charging juveniles — only six; the previous year saw 12. So this year “the odd thing, or the odd trend, we have is that we had a high number of juveniles charged with murder in the first month.”
The department is reallocating resources and trying to get ahead of any violence before it happens, but Reilly said it is concerning to see teens involved in violence.
“We are certainly aware of the increase. And we’re working to try to determine the contributing factors that may have that may be involved here,” he said.