Prince George’s County officials announced Monday the start of a curfew for people under age 17, which will last 30 days in the wake of the Maryland county experiencing its deadliest month on record in August.
With the county setting records for homicides and carjackings, many committed by juveniles, minors can no longer be out between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weeknights unless accompanied by a parent. On Friday and Saturday nights, the curfew kicks in at midnight and will be enforced by the county’s police.
In announcing the curfew, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks noted that 24 homicides took place in Prince George’s last month and said accountability needs to start now.
WRC-TV first reported those numbers Sunday and noted it was the highest monthly number since the county began tracking them in January 2009.
“We have an accountability problem in our county,” Ms. Alsobrooks said. She went on to say later, “What’s clear to us — and I know [this] isn’t rocket science, it’s clear to everyone — that something is not working.”
Even with August’s homicide numbers, Chief of Police Malik Aziz did report that the 80 homicides reported this year are down from last year’s 89 year-to-date.
The county also has seen a growing trend of carjackings.
Chief Aziz said that Prince George’s has seen 355 reported carjackings this year — a 40% increase year-to-date in 2021, which saw 391 total by year’s end. Only 91 incidents of the crime were reported in 2019, which jumped to 262 in 2020.
A large number of juveniles have been arrested in carjackings in the county.
Ms. Alsobrooks said that 55 of the 84 juveniles arrested in these cases have a prior offense, 34 have prior gun or violent crimes, and half of all juveniles arrested on carjacking charges are under 15 years old.
In total, 430 juveniles have been arrested on criminal charges in 2022.
“At this point these kids don’t just need a hug, they also need to be held accountable,” Ms. Alsobrooks said.
“I know this isn’t the popular thing to say, but the truth of the matter is, where are the parents? Where are the aunties? Where are the uncles and other family members who are responsible for them?” she said.
Punishments for parents whose children are caught during the curfew hours range from $50, $100 and $250 fines to contacting Social Services.
Ms. Alsobrooks also called on the courts and Department of Juvenile Services to release their numbers on cases and outstanding dispositions, as well as the prosecutor’s office to release its pending cases and dispositions.
While Ms. Alsobrooks refrained from naming who she thought was most responsible for the current crime issues, Prince George’s County Council chair Calvin Hawkins wasn’t so coy.
“To my colleagues in the judicial branch, I want you to understand one thing: Our county charter allows this county council to have oversight powers, and we’re going to exercise those powers to get to the bottom of what’s going on,” he said.
Mr. Hawkins went on to say that the judges who are letting crime-committing individuals back into public “are going to have to deal with this county council because we don’t want you presiding over those kinds of cases that are putting perpetrators on the street that are increasing the crime in our community.”
Prince George’s County’s State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy held her own press conference Monday afternoon where she criticized the tone of the earlier press conference and defended her prosecutorial record.
“Sometimes we disagree and we are upset with the decisions of those in the justice system. But our system of justice only works if we all respect everyone’s role and we understand the law,” she said, according to a WTOP report on the press conference.
Ms. Braveboy cited her 98% conviction rate and noted changes to the law that have restricted when juveniles can be held and expanded their rights during and after trial.
She also wanted the return of weekly meetings between all parts of the criminal justice system, which she said worked well when former County Executive Rushern Baker was in office over a decade ago.