- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Prince George’s County police yesterday charged a 17-year-old male in connection with a recent carjacking but could not say whether he was a suspect in nine others in the Capitol Heights area over four days.

Police are withholding the suspect’s name because he is a juvenile. He was arrested Monday night by the Metropolitan Police Department as he fled from one of the vehicles stolen in Capitol Heights.

The spree started about 10 p.m. Friday when two persons forced a driver out of a vehicle at Shadyside and Pennsylvania avenues.

Investigators think the carjackings are the work of a gang or several gangs, since at least two persons were involved in most of the cases, said Cpl. Joe Merkel, a Prince George’s County Police Department spokesman.

The suspects mostly used a vehicle to block a driveway as an owner was leaving or coming home, “then would threaten [the victim] with a handgun and drive away in the two cars,” he said.

Cpl. Merkel said the victims have given slightly different descriptions, so there could be as many as six suspects. However, most of them were described as wearing dark clothing, including masks and hats.

In one case, the carjackers pulled their guns to take a vehicle from an off-duty female Metropolitan Police Department officer, who did not resist.

In another case, the suspects shot a car owner when he resisted their demands, then took his car. He was treated at a hospital for a non-life-threatening wound.

There have been 345 carjackings so far this year in Prince George’s County, compared to 290 last year, Cpl. Merkel said.

Most of the 10 recent carjackings in the Capitol Heights vicinity were committed at night. The five on Saturday occurred between midnight and sunrise.

The most recently reported incident happened at 11:40 a.m. Monday and was the second to occur in daylight.

The carjackings come as the county is on pace to have 141 homicides this year, compared to 128 last year. There have been 104 homicides in the county this year, a situation that has prompted County Executive Jack B. Johnson to say he will hire 150 more police officers a year for the next six years. There were 71 homicides in 2000. Homicides had been declining since 1991, when 154 persons were slain.

Prince George’s police are urging motorists to look carefully at their surroundings before entering or exiting their vehicles. They also advise not resisting a carjacking and reporting suspicious activity or information about the Capitol Heights carjackings to the Robbery Unit at 301-772-4905.

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