A group of teens from Washington, D.C. are responsible for more than 25 percent of stolen auto crimes in Prince George’s County’s District 1, police say.
The recent spike in auto thefts began just prior to 2012, but auto theft activity in the district has gone down since the middle of February due to a string of 10 arrests made involving D.C. juveniles, some as young as 13, said Prince George’s County Police Major Robert Brewer, the District 1 commander.
“It’s a group of kids, some on their side and some on our side of the line stealing cars,” he said. “When I was 13, never thought about driving a car, much less stealing one, but to me it’s is what it is as far as the age of these suspects.”
Brewer said police are unsure how large this specific group of teens may be, but said it appears as though many of them live along Eastern Avenue, the border between D.C. and Prince George’s County’s District 1, which is why places such as gas stations are being targeted in the immediate area.
So far this year, there have been roughly 170 auto thefts cases, Brewer said, and about 47 are linked to the group of D.C. teens.
Brewer said even with the recent spike, overall auto theft incidents are down by about 22 percent from 2011. He said by the beginning of March in 2011, there were 216 auto theft cases. He attributes the overall decline to the warmer weather this winter.
“We’ve seen a decline in jump-ins because of the warm weather we’ve had,” he said. “Typically in winter, we have an increase in jump-ins because people will warm their car up but leave them, which we can write a ticket for.”
He said Prince George’s police have been monitoring auto theft activity and gas station locations in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Department, since their side of the border has been subject to similar incidents from the same group.
“It’s something we do on constant basis so we are familiar with crime trends across the border,” he said.
MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said they are actively partnering with Prince George’s police to be more aware with incidents in the area.
“We are coordinating with our bordering police agencies in real time,” she said. “We are finding that DC suspects are committing crimes in stolen vehicles or taking vehicles to commit crime in Prince George’s or Montgomery County and vice versa.”
Crump did not know how many auto theft incidents the northeast region of D.C. has had since the beginning of 2012.
Brewer said gas stations are seen as easy targets for those committing the auto thefts because drivers many times will leave their keys in their vehicles when pumping or paying for gas and sometimes leave their engines running as well. He said police are urging drivers to practice safe and responsible practices when operating their vehicles as to not become an easy target for an auto theft.
“People to take precautions and protect property and not leave keys in ignition,” Brewer said. “It’s the crime of opportunity. Somebody will be walking down the street or somebody will hop out a vehicle and get right into another one.”
George Johnson, a Langley Park Chevron manager, said while his gas station has not had any auto thefts in recent months, he’s aware of the incidents and said “life is getting rough,” regarding the age of the suspects responsible.
“Drivers need to keep their doors locked and don’t leave keys in the ignition,” he said, noting that drivers should be responsible when pumping gas by taking their keys with them and avoid using pumps overnight. “After 12 o’ clock, don’t be buying gas. Bad things happen early in the morning.”