WASHINGTON – Carjackings in Maryland fell 6 percent — from 824 in 2001 to 771 in 2002 — and would have fallen even further but for a spike in Prince George’s County.
The latest data released by the Maryland State Police showed a dramatic 17 percent drop in carjackings outside of Prince George’s County, with reports of the crime falling from 459 in 2001 to 383 in 2002.
But Prince George’s County bucked the trend, rising from 365 to 388 in 2002. And the county’s own numbers indicate that carjackings rose again in 2003, to 423 cases, said Lt. Robert Nealon II, commander of the robbery section of the county’s police department.
“It’s like a spider web,” Nealon said. “One guy does it, tells his friends it was easy and it spreads just like that, one to another.”
Elsewhere in the state, officers have had more success.
In Baltimore, carjacking dropped 31 percent, from 305 to 211, the first drop in five years of data going back to 1998.
Baltimore Police Department spokesman Matt Jablow said the drop is the result of efforts by a regional auto theft taskforce made up of Baltimore and Baltimore County officers who are “out looking for potential targets for carjacking and car theft.”
The task force was less effective in Baltimore County in 2002, when 78 people lost their cars, up from 64 in 2001. But Baltimore County Police Department spokesman Shawn Vinson said preliminary numbers for 2003 show the number fell to 45.
Police in the Baltimore region fought the 2002 spike with newspaper and television ads that advised drivers not to park in poorly lit lots and not to leave their cars running to warm them up on winter mornings, Vinson said.
The popularity of keychain panic buttons and remote starters also helped, Vinson said.
In Anne Arundel County, carjacking increased from 20 to 25 in 2002. In Montgomery County, it dropped from 35 to 27.
But next door in Prince George’s County, carjacking has risen every year since 1998. The largest increase came in 2001 — the year the county passed Baltimore as the carjack capital of Maryland — when carjackings jumped 84 percent, from 198 in 2000 to 365 in 2001.
Nealon blamed the county’s location for the ongoing problem. Most cars are taken from the Palmer Park, Oxon Hill and Hyattsville areas of the county, all of which border Washington, D.C., he said.
Still, the number of carjackings in Prince George’s County, as compared to the rest of the state, stunned Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said, noting that the numbers equal more than one carjacking a day in the county.
-30- CNS 04-28-04