Law enforcement officials in Prince George’s County in Maryland recently announced their plan to enforce a state curfew for teenagers after a “deeply troubling” rise in juvenile arrests this year.
Police in the DC area say they have arrested 430 teens so far this year — more than double the amount last year — and that the majority of the children were “armed and dangerous.”
Carjacking is a particularly common offense committed by teens and children of late.
Officials say that among those arrested this year, 84 committed carjackings and half of the perpetrators were under the age of 15. In addition, 34 of those teens had a history of prior arrests for a gun offense or a violent crime.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said the number of juvenile arrests was “shocking.”
“The vast number of juveniles are out doing the right thing and living a meaningful and positive life in Prince George’s County. “These are the outliers that are causing our residents to fear so much crime in our own neighborhoods,” Aziz said during a press conference.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” he added.
To combat juvenile crime, the county plans to strictly enforce a state curfew law that requires teens under 17 to be off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday and between 11:59 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays unless accompanied by an adult.
According to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, the last time the curfew was strictly enforced was in 1995, but the “facts and the circumstances warrant doing so again.”
“At this point, these kids don’t just need a hug, they also need to be held accountable,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks told reporters. “I know this isn’t the popular thing to say, but the truth of the matter is, it’s a fair question: Where are their parents? Where are the aunties? Where are the uncles and other family members who are responsible for them?”
Alsobrooks said that deputies would enforce the curfew for a period of 30 days at first. Parents will receive a warning for a first offense, and could be fined up to $250 for a second offense. In addition, children could be sent to the Department of Social Services if parents do not respond.
Alsobrooks said the policy is intended to protect children and get parents to take more responsibility for their kids’ behavior.
“Simply put, the enforcement of this law is to protect our children,” Alsobrooks explained. “Children 17 years old and younger are not legally responsible for themselves. Neither are police. Their parents are responsible, and their families are responsible for keeping them safe. We need everyone working to protect our children.”
Alsobrooks also mentioned other tools the county is using to deter juvenile crime, including increasing mental health services and youth enrichment programs over the summer.
The county is also working to ensure that teens who commit serious crimes are held accountable by the courts.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy assured that her office is taking the matter seriously.
“We absolutely hold people accountable for serious crimes,” Braveboy said. She called the number of carjackings committed by juveniles “outrageous.”
The new policy comes after the county recorded its deadliest month in decades this August, with 24 killings.
In total, there have been 350 reported carjackings in the county this year, marking a 52% increase over last year. Minors represented more than half of those offenders.
Prince George’s County Council President Calvin Hawkins supported the move to enforce the curfew, and suggested that the court system needs to get tougher on juvenile crime.
“Somebody has to ask the question: Who is allowing these individuals to return to our streets?” he said. “Yes, we can say little Johnny and little Lisa are so nice. But if they’re perpetrating crimes that are impacting the community we have to live in, enough is enough.”