2021 | Police & Fire

Montgomery County part of regional effort to address rise in carjackings

Youth crime blamed on children not being in school during pandemic

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Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Greenbelt on Wednesday.

Photo by Dan Schere

Montgomery County is part of a new regional task force respond to a recent increase in carjackings.

The partnership also includes Prince George County and Washington, D.C. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is leading the effort.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Greenbelt on Wednesday that the number of carjackings combined in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties more than doubled from 2019 to 2020.

Lenzner said on Wednesday the regional approach is needed because carjackings often traverse the region’s multiple jurisdictions.

“Which can frustrate efforts to investigate and prosecute these criminals to the full extent of the law,” he said.

Lenzner said the aim of the task force is to overcome the challenge of prosecuting multi-jurisdictional carjackings. He said the law enforcement agencies on the task force will frequently share information with each other.

The federal and state prosecutors will ultimately determine which jurisdiction a defendant should be charged, according to a press release.

Members of the task force include:

  • Lenzner
  • McCarthy
  • Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips
  • Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy
  • Attorney General for the District of Columbia Karl Racine
  • Members of multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies, including Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones

Both McCarthy and Braveboy noted that juveniles are committing many of the carjackings. McCarthy said police made 18 arrests in the 50 carjackings in Montgomery County between July and January, and of the 18 arrests, 13 cases involved someone younger than 21.

Braveboy said the spike in carjackings coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She thinks that children being out of school created an opportunity for them to steal cars, while sometimes armed.

McCarthy said in an interview with Bethesda Beat later that he agreed with Braveboy’s analysis.

“As we have been discussing it for the last six months internally within my office and monitoring it, I think that the fact that kids were not regularly engaged in school was a substantial factor in why we saw this spike,” he said. “Your mother used to say, ‘Idle hands make the devil’s workshop.’ I think you had kids that were idle, and didn’t have anything to do.”

McCarthy said he hopes that the media attention on Wednesday’s task force announcement serves as a deterrent to potential criminals.

“If you’re a kid and you’re thinking about jacking a car, you’re thinking, ‘You know what? They’re really gonna drop the hammer on me if I do it,’” he said. “I think there is a deterrent value to this kind of event, because this kind of information seeps out to youth in the community.”

Two men indicted in connection with Silver Spring carjackings

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday that Elijah Greene-Parker, 19, and Rashaun Onley, 21, both of D.C. were indicted on charges of armed robbery and carjacking, along with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm.

Greene-Parker and Onley were among four males charged with being involved in a series of armed carjackings and robberies in Silver Spring.

Although one of the suspects was a minor at the time, all were charged by Montgomery County police as adults.

The thefts took place between Jan. 29 and Feb. 19. Many took place at gas stations and ATMs, police said. In some cases, the carjackers were armed.

Greene-Parker and Onley specifically were charged with carjacking two victims on Feb. 5, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Police union, chief trade Twitter comments

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, a union that represents police officers in Montgomery County, posted comments on Twitter about the carjacking task force announcement.

In response to a post by the police department about the task force, the union said the effort comes after Police Chief Marcus Jones and County Executive Marc Elrich “disbanded (the department’s) auto theft union.”

Jones responded, pointing out that the department’s Major Crimes Unit investigates carjackings. Auto theft investigators have been “decentralized to each police district,” he wrote.

The union wrote back that Major Crimes detectives don’t do surveillance on auto theft or carjacking rings.

“Disbanding centralized auto theft reduced the number of auto theft detectives at a time auto crimes are on the rise,” the union wrote.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com