Startling Pandemic Trend — Young Teen Carjackers

Startling Pandemic Trend—Young Teen Carjackers

( – Youth violent crimes are on the rise in several cities across the United States. Officials in Philadelphia, Chicago, and the District of Columbia are especially concerned about skyrocketing carjacking rates they increasingly attribute to troubled teens. While experts aren’t sure what’s driving the problem, it may be related to pressures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carjacking Crime Rates Explode

Washington, DC’s Attorney General, Karl A. Racine, recently told the New York Times that juvenile crime rates have actually dropped by almost 60% between 2020 and 2021. Yet, Racine says carjackings are becoming more common than ever — they tripled within the same time frame. Almost 50% of arrests made in relation to those cases involved people under 18.

In early January, the Philadelphia Police Department shared a Facebook post citing a 34% increase in carjackings between 2020 and 2021. The city is on track to nearly double this statistic in 2022.

During an early February press conference at Marvin Gaye Park, Robert J. Contee III, the Chief of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), said that over 200 minors committed carjacking offenses in the DC area over the past few years.

“Playtime is over,” he explained.

Carjackers are often armed with a gun or another type of weapon. Yet, some of the individuals involved in these crimes are as young as 12 years old.

The Pandemic and Youth Crime

COVID disrupted education, forced isolation, reduced community resources and compromised social ability and overall mental health, especially for children and teens. Problems in these areas elevate risk factors for crime and violence. Exposure to drugs, gangs, violence and crime also increased with kids out of school, leaving many teenagers victimized or otherwise exposed to activities they wouldn’t typically experience. It became a perfect storm of negative influences.

Experts believe children and youth who aren’t being monitored appropriately by the education system or other community organizations are more susceptible to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and crime. The extended period of isolation and social disruptions stemming from the pandemic could have negatively impacted teens between the ages of 12 and 18.

Perhaps, as the old adage goes, idle hands often get into trouble when left to their own devices without guidance or direction. Are youth in this country getting the support they deserve support during these uncertain times?

Our youth are our greatest asset, our hope to become the leaders of tomorrow. Don’t they deserve the kind of stability and social structure needed to be healthy and crime-free?

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