Federal and local prosecutors are coming together to keep carjacking offenders in the D.C. area accountable.
Carjackings are on the rise in the area, causing dangerous conditions for all drivers. Many offenders drive stolen cars across jurisdictional lines hoping to avoid punishment.
“The message has to be clear: that if you carjack somebody, whatever jurisdiction you go to, whatever your age, you will be held accountable,” said Jonathan Lenzner, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland.
Prince George's County
News4's Prince George's County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports.
A new task force of federal and state prosecutors from D.C., Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Maryland are sharing intel and discussing where carjackers who cross jurisdictional lines can be sentenced to the most prison time, Lenzner said.
“We are tearing down the borders that carjackers use to conceal their trails of violence,” Lenzner said.
Prince George’s County had 263 carjackings in 2020. The county is nearly halfway there for 2021. Meanwhile, carjackings in D.C. have doubled in comparison to May 2020. Montgomery County is seeing a decrease in carjackings.
One trend, however, remains the same: Many of the carjackings are committed by juveniles.
“In our 18 cases where arrests have taken place, 13 of the 18 were under 21. A number were actually juveniles,” said John McCarthy, the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County.
Underaged carjackings can be complicated to prosecute, as some offenders aren't old enough to legally drive. It's a trend that began nationwide during the pandemic.
Aisha Braveboy, Prince George’s County state’s attorney, also attributes this trend to the pandemic.
“Children were not in school. There was a lot of free time and there were other social issues going on in some families,” Braveboy said.
Since schools have started to reopen, there has been a decline in the number of carjackings, according to Braveboy.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is working to quickly reopen parks and recreation and provide more activities in an effort to keep teens out of trouble.
Through the new task force, a federal grand jury has already indicted three suspected armed carjackers. Federal prosecution could mean more prison time in some cases.
“Those who choose to engage in these dangerous crimes should be forewarned: The penalties and consequences are stiff, particularly when a firearm is used to commit the offense,” said Channing Phillips, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.