Spikes in carjackings around DC and Maryland spur federal-state task force

Acting US Attorney for Maryland Jonathan Lenzner announces a new regional carjacking prosecution task force.

(CNN)Federal and local officials in Maryland and Washington, DC, on Wednesday announced a new regional task force to crack down on spikes in crime in the area.

In announcing the carjacking prosecution task force, acting US Attorney for Maryland Jonathan Lenzner said there has been an "excessive number of carjackings" that have more than doubled in 2020 from 2019. "Unfortunately, this year is on pace to potentially rival" them, he said.
The federal and state prosecutors in the task force determine where defendants who commit crimes in multiple jurisdictions should be charged to ensure they are adequately held accountable for their crimes, the prosecutors said in a joint news release. Federal, state and local law enforcement officials from agencies in Maryland and Washington who are involved in carjacking investigations and prosecution were also present for the announcement.
      "We are tearing down the borders that carjackers use to conceal their trails of violence," Lenzner said.
        Washington has recorded 129 carjackings this year, according to acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips, who noted that's "more than double over the same time frame in 2020 where there were 52." A carjacking conviction in Washington carries a prison term of 7 to 21 years. If a gun is used during a crime, the prison term is 15 to 40 years.
          In Montgomery County, US Attorney John McCarthy said there were 50 carjackings between July and January, with the peak month of December recording 17 incidents.
          For Aisha Braveboy, Prince George's County state's attorney, the "most concerning trends" in the carjacking arrests are the number of juvenile offenders, with some as young as 13 years old.
          "We have someone who's not even old enough to drive, carjacking and driving, oftentimes across county lines or in multiple jurisdictions. So it creates a lot of problems, not just for the victim of that carjacking but for all motorists on our roadways," Braveboy said at the news conference, adding that determining "ways to provide meaningful intervention" is key.
          "We will hold them accountable for their actions, but we also know that we have to do it in a way that is holistic," she said, noting that carjackings appeared to have spiked during the pandemic when students were not in school or participating in other activities due to Covid-19 restrictions.
          Thirteen of the 18 people arrested for carjacking in Montgomery County were under 21 years old, McCarthy said.
          The driver of the recent spikes in carjacking crimes isn't related to any major organized criminal activity or a form of entrepreneurial activity, the prosecutors said.
          "I don't want to downgrade the seriousness of what's going on, but a lot of times they seem to be carjacking cars to joyride drive around for a couple days and then they abandon them," McCarthy said.
          The FBI released a Preliminary Union Crime Report in September 2020 that determined motor vehicle thefts increased 6.2% nationwide during the first six months of the year.
          Lenzner explained Monday that "criminals are committing a series of carjackings, and robberies, spread out among different jurisdictions, which can frustrate efforts to investigate and prosecute these criminals to the full extent of the law."
          The task force, he said, is "designed to overcome these challenges, and ensure that we are all able to prosecute these crews, for all of their crimes, regardless of how many jurisdictions they cross into."
            The officials also announced the first federal indictments filed in Maryland resulting from the task force. The two separate indictments charge three men -- a 19-year-old and 21-year-old from Washington and a 22-year-old from Maryland -- with allegedly committing carjacking and related firearms offenses in February.
            As CNN has previously reported, other high-profile carjacking cases in recent months have included the charging of two teenage girls in March in the carjacking death of an Uber Eats driver in DC, and the arrest of a 12-year-old boy in March in connection with a series of attempted carjackings also in the district.