Carjackings Are Increasing at An Alarming Rate, And Teens Are The Culprits. Experts Wonder Why.

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Last night, my twelve-year-old son came to me for the umpteenth time this week to beg me to let him have social media. He swears up and down that all his friends are on Instagram and Snapchat, and he has a million and two reasons why he should be online too.

But when I see endless stories about TikTok challenges ending in kids getting hurt, or getting in trouble (looking at you, Devious Licks Challenge), I can’t help but say no.

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But now, something even more sinister is happening on social media that has me deeply worried about the kids in this country, mine included.

According to the New York Times, kids as young as 11 are holding victims at gunpoint and then hijacking their cars. And it’s happening in cities all across the country.

In Chicago, there were 1,900 carjackings in 2021, which is expected to rise in 2022.

Police are seeing this same pattern in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and more. In fact, in New Orleans, carjacking rates have already surpassed two-thirds of the total 2021 rate, and we’re only just now entering March.

The carjacking problem has become so terrible that the Washington Metropolitan Police Department created a task force on carjacking that works with authorities in the D.C. area to help curb the growing problem.

During a recent news conference, the WMPD Chief, Robert J. Contee III, said,

“They are children. The fact that between Prince George’s County and D.C., we have over 200 young people that committed a carjacking is staggering to me.”

So, what is going on with the sudden rise in carjacking?

Some experts think that kids are risking their safety and futures for a few reasons; none of which are good.

For starters, many kids got lost in the system during the pandemic. When schools closed down and parents lost jobs, many kids and teens felt that the world had turned its back on them.

When schools closed down, they didn’t just take away daily instruction for our nations’ kids. In many areas, particularly urban areas that suffer from chronic poverty, kids lost social systems. Some of those systems included recreational activities in homerooms, recess, gym, and recreation centers with adults keeping an eye on everyone.

As a result of the pandemic, and loss of activities, kids turned to the internet in droves. 

Without adults making sure that their antics weren’t over-the-top, the urge to “go viral” doing ridiculous things on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube became a game to them. 

And for reasons that are still not entirely clear, kids and teens turned to carjacking as a sport of thrill.

Car breaking by unknown male with hidden face carjackings are increasing
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“A thrill, almost like a fad,” Warees Majeed, a 45-year-old father of three and the owner of a car detailing business, told the New York Times.

“When you don’t have activities in their communities, everything’s shut down, young people are going to find a way to entertain themselves. It’s recreation, that’s what it is.”

It should be noted that while carjacking is skyrocketing, seemingly out of control in some areas, other crimes rates have dramatically plunged.

From 2020 to 2021 in the District of Columbia, the attorney general saw a 60 percent drop in crimes committed by juveniles across the board, including violent crimes.

When you read the numbers, it seems as if when the pandemic hit, kids who are mainly at-risk youth in poverty-stricken areas decided to focus on one particular crime; carjacking.

“It has been interesting over the course of my career to watch the mix of crime shift without seeming explanation,” Professor Eduardo Ferrer, the policy director of the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative, told the New York Times.

“A number of these are crimes of opportunity, folks looking for that kind of low-hanging fruit.”

If ever there was a case to be made for better funding in our schools and communities with programs that target at-risk kids and teens, it is this one.

It seems that there is a case to be made for better regulation on social platforms too.

After all, that is where videos of kids holding victims at gunpoint, stealing their cars, then taking them on wild joy rides has helped to fuel the frightening rise in carjackings.

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