D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

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D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine may be on his way out of public office—he announced late last year that he’ll return to private practice and not seek a third term—but not before he responds to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s comments about the rise in carjackings, especially those involving D.C. youth.

Between 2020 and 2021, the number of carjackings in D.C. increased 300 percent, and Bowser was quick to blame Racine and his office for a perceived lack of prosecution. “Know that the executive doesn’t prosecute; the District’s Attorney General is solely responsible for the prosecution of juvenile offenses,” Bowser wrote in a constituent newsletter late last month. 

In interviews with Fox 5 and WJLA yesterday, Racine adjusted the narrative. Yes, carjackings are up, but overall juvenile crime is down 51 percent from 2019 to 2021, and violent juvenile crime is down 46 percent over the same period, according to data OAG provided City Paper

“[Bowser and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee are] giving you anecdote, sensationalism, and fear, and then they’re finger pointing instead of taking responsibility for perhaps closing on the hundreds of carjacking incidents that haven’t been brought to our office,” Racine told WJLA’s Sam Ford. OAG data shows that while 426 carjacking incidents were reported in 2021, the police made only 149 arrests related to those incidents. One hundred of those arrests were of children, but it’s unclear how arrests equate to incidents.

During a press conference last week where Bowser and Contee joined Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and her police chief, Malik Aziz, Bowser and Contee again called for accountability for those under 18 accused of crimes. City leaders said some kids commit crimes in PG County and in the District. And they pointed fingers at other cogs in the criminal justice system, claiming that kids are arrested, released, and then commit more crimes. 

“Where are these young people right now?” Contee said. “They’re in the community. I assure you they are in community and when they are in community it becomes very difficult to ensure accountability happens the way it’s supposed to happen. Let me tell you something. Playtime is over. This is not a video game, this is not a game where we’re playing chicken, and we’re gonna figure out what it is we need to do.”

But asked by NBC4 reporter Mark Segraves to provide data to support their claims, Bowser and other leaders dodged the question. “As we look back over the last couple of years, some [kids] have been repeat offenders,” Contee replied. “But in terms of what that number is, maybe we can share that information a little later.”

This week, Racine’s office released some of that data for fiscal year 2021, which runs from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021. OAG data shows that only 7 percent of the 108 youth arrested for carjacking in FY 2021 had a previous charge. OAG also broke out a sample of 80 kids who were charged at least six months ago. Of those 80 kids, 14 reoffended with another carjacking, according to OAG.

Racine is due to testify at OAG’s performance oversight hearing this afternoon, where many of these questions are likely to come up. Hear what he has to say on the D.C. Council’s website.

—Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Caroline Jones contributed reporting.

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