Police Perplexed: D.C. Carjackings Spike 111% After Lack of Prosecutions

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Car theft - thief trying to break into the vehicle.

Police appear to not know why carjackings in Washington, DC, dramatically increased 111 percent in the first ten months of 2023 compared to the same time period in 2022, even though authorities refused to prosecute 67 percent of those arrested last year.

A total of 760 carjackings occurred in the first ten months of 2023 in the nation’s capital, police statistics show. During the same time period in 2022, 360 carjackings occurred.

The number of carjacking in 2023 is higher than in 2018, 2019, and 2020 combined.

Carjackings occur nearly everywhere in the District. The hot spots are near the H Street Corridor and across the Anacostia River bordering Maryland, police data shows.

Those arrested for jacking cars are primarily below 18 years of age. Sixty-five percent of those arrested are juveniles, according to police data.

U.S. Attorney for D.C. Matthew Graves suggested in August that his office would crack down on some crimes involving juveniles. His office does not generally prosecute them. According to 2022 District statistics, Graves refused to prosecute 67 percent of those arrested who could have stood trial in the D.C. Superior Court. Among juvenile crime, he refused to prosecute 26 percent, according to data obtained by the Washington Post.

President Joe Biden nominated Graves to his position in 2021, and the Senate confirmed him.

“A majority of the individuals arrested for robberies and a super majority of the individuals arrested for carjackings are juveniles,” Graves admitted. “In general, our office does not have a role in prosecuting juveniles for armed robberies, and consequently armed carjackings. We do, though, have the ability to charge 16 and 17-year-olds as adults.”

D.C. juvenile court has jurisdiction over delinquent acts, according to the District: “Delinquent acts include crimes against persons, crimes against property, drug offenses, and crimes against public order.” Prosecutors in juvenile court must file a petition to transfer juveniles to criminal court for prosecution as an adult. The U.S. Attorney’s Office then prosecutes the juveniles in the adult system from a statutory list of serious crimes.

Police say the U.S. Attorney’s Office has first right of refusal to prosecute the juveniles, Assistant Chief of the Investigative Services Bureau Carlos Heraud told reporters this week. “Every time we have a 16- or 17-year-old that’s been arrested for a carjacking or a Title 16 eligible offense, we present it to the U.S. Attorney’s Office first — give them the right to refuse before we present the case to the office of the Attorney General.”

Despite Graves’ refusal to prosecute 26 percent of juvenile crime, Heraud appeared confused about why juvenile carjackings would increase. “I think if we knew the ‘why,’ we’d be able to address this much better. We have to get in the heads of those juveniles and see: Is it social media-run? Is it a lack of consequence that’s contributing to this? Is it conversations that they’re having in school?”

On Monday, thieves carjacked Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in Navy Yard, a community within a short walking distance of the Capitol Building.

VIDEO — Rep. Cuellar on D.C. Carjacking: ‘Young Punks with Guns’ Stole My Car, Phone, and Sushi

“They came out of nowhere and they pointed guns at me. I do have a black belt, but I recognize when you got three, three guns, yeah, I looked at one with a gun another with a gun, no one behind me,” Cuellar told reporters on Tuesday. “So they said they wanted my car[.] I said, ‘Sure.’ You got to keep calm under those situations and then they took off. They recovered the car, they recovered everything.”

Carjackings are just one crime that soared this year. Overall, total violent crime increased during 2023 in the District, police data shows, up nearly 40 percent year over year.

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.

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