March 29, 2023

Teenagers in a Maryland county blighted by violence will be banned from the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the week in a bid to bring rocketing juvenile crime rates down. Authorities in Prince George’s County, which encompasses eastern Washington DC and its surrounding suburbs, announced that people under the age of 17 will be forced to stay in their homes at night during a 30-day ‘cooling down’ period.

This means that parents could be fined up to $250 for repeated violations and children could be turned over to the Department of Social Services, it was announced on Monday. The tough measures come after the county marked its deadliest month in decades, with 24 killings investigated by police in August alone. Announcing the rules, executive Angela Alsobrooks said: ‘I’m just going to put it very bluntly: Somebody has got to take responsibility for these armed and dangerous children. And it’s not just the police and not just the government.’

‘We have children who are out in our communities at 3 and 4 o’clock a.m. committing these crimes. No summer job or government program is going to help that.’ The youth curfew is based on an existing law, and was last brought in in 1995, but Alsobrooks said current circumstances warranted bringing it back.

Alsobrooks noted an ‘eye-popping’ 430 arrests of juveniles this year so far – nearly double the number last year – and 84 arrests of young people for carjackings – almost the same figure as for the entire 12 months of 2021. Under the terms of the curfew, youngsters aged 17 or under must be home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and Sundays, and midnight and 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The ‘cooling down period’, as Alsobrooks termed it, will run for 30 days.

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A warning will be sent to the parents or guardians of any child out past curfew, and the child will be released to social services if the parent or guardian fails to respond regarding their child. Parents of teens out past curfew, and owners of businesses allowing them on premise after curfew, will face a $50 fine for the first offense, $100 for a second offense and $250 for subsequent offenses. Violent crime, including homicides, shootings and carjackings, spiked in 2020 and again in 2021 after a decade of decline in the area.

On Saturday night, 15-year-old De’Andre Johnson of Washington, DC became the latest victim – shot and killed at 8 p.m. as he shopped at a 7-Eleven in the Capitol Heights district of the capital, only five miles from Capitol Hill. Two adults and another 15-year-old were also shot, with the teenager remaining in hospital in a critical condition. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the killers, who police believe deliberately targeted their victims.

‘It ought to be clear to everyone that something is not working,’ Alsobrooks said, referencing ‘armed and dangerous’ children. ‘We are arresting and re-arresting the same children and adults who are committing crimes in our community.’ She said parents needed to take more responsibility for their children. ‘At this point, these kids don’t just need a hug, they need to be held accountable,’ Alsobrooks said. ‘I know it’s not a popular thing to say, but 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? We need family members to step up and do their part.’

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She said she is seeking an emergency meeting with the Department of Juvenile Services and officials in the court system to understand ‘how these kids are being held accountable.’ She also urged the state’s attorney office and courts and police department to release data on arrests and dispositions of cases, saying police are continuing to arrest and re-arrest repeat offenders, both adults and juveniles. Alsobrooks said: ‘In short, we have an accountability problem in our county. We need our entire criminal justice system to act and full public transparency so that we can tackle this issue together.’

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