Prince George’s Co. prosecutor says it may be time to hold parents accountable for some youth crime

The rising number of car thefts and car jackings, as well as notorious crimes — such as the attempted murder of a student on a Prince George’s County, Maryland, school bus last month — are all emblematic of failing support systems no longer working for kids, according to Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.

When she used the word “system” though, she wasn’t necessarily describing the justice system, and Braveboy also emphasized that most kids around the county are doing the right thing.

Instead, she said it’s a combination of family and communities not holding kids accountable to the degree it needs to happen.

“We have to ensure that families, that parents, know where their children are, know who they’re affiliating themselves with, know whether or not they’re in school,” Braveboy said. “Truancy is a huge issue.”

She’s planning to launch a truancy initiative in conjunction with the school system to better grasp which students aren’t in class, and why. Braveboy also plans to start talking with state lawmakers about ways parents can be held more accountable for their actions.

If a juvenile takes a gun registered to a parent, or drinks alcohol provided by a parent or is allowed to skip school with a parent’s consent, then in those cases, parents can be held accountable. But after that, Braveboy said there’s not much she can do.

“There really are limited mechanisms for the prosecutor’s office to hold parents accountable,” said Braveboy. “When you look at what’s happening now, the carjackings, the guns that are being recovered are not registered to the parent for the most part, they are illegal guns. And right now, as it currently stands, there is no mechanism for me to then hold the parent responsible criminally for the actions of the child.”

She said herself and a handful of state lawmakers from the area think that might have to change. But what that looks like still isn’t clear.

“We have to have a conversation,” Braveboy said. “We have to come to some consensus on what makes sense and what is appropriate. I think the community is demanding parent accountability and responsibility and the law should reflect the level of importance parents play in a child’s life.”

With lawmakers out of session until January, she’ll have time to have those conversations, not just with lawmakers, but also the school system, and other members of the justice system and “come up with a solution that everyone can be in agreement with.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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