WASHINGTON - There is an alarming number of teenagers and even pre-teens being arrested for robbery in the District. Since October, D.C. police say officers have charged 69 juveniles with the crime - with three of them as young as 12 years old.
In addition, the number of juveniles charged with a crime is up significantly over the last year.
We started noticing this trend when D.C. police began listing the ages of the people they were arresting for robbery. It is not something the department had previously done.
We began to count the number of young teenagers between 12 to 17 years old who are being charged with robbery, and according to the D.C. Attorney General, robbery arrests are up 8 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Robberies in the District of Columbia have been a major crime concern for years. So much so, a year ago, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced police would form of a task force that would do nothing but investigate and prosecute the people stealing property in what are often violent assaults.
But what has become clear in recent months is that a large number of these robberies are being committed by juveniles.
"I think what is going on unfortunately is that increasingly, a lot of young people frankly are not engaged in productive activity, and where they are idle, they are prone to get together and make bad decisions," said Karl Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia.
Since October, these are the teenagers between 12 and 17 years old arrested for robbery:
- 12 years old - 3
- 13 years old - 6
- 14 years old - 7
- 15 years old - 14
- 16 years old - 28
- 17 years old - 11
From 2015 to 2016, the number of juveniles charged with a crime has also climbed from 2,474 to 2,636.
"Another aspect of our work at the Office of Attorney General is to identify young people who are involved in non-violent offenses, not as serious as armed robberies, but nonetheless are making their initial contacts in the system," said Racine. "We don't want those young people to turn into revolving door criminals. So here is what we are doing - we are putting those young people in a diversion program that provide services, needed services like anger management, services like mentoring."
For the teenagers accused of robbery, many of them end up at a facility on Mount Olivet Road or to a shelter such as the one located on Rock Creek Church Road in Northwest D.C.
"Indeed, 12- and 13-year-olds who commit crimes can get locked up in the District of Columbia," Racine said. "It could be that they get locked up first overnight for the offense, and then depending on their criminal history, if they post a risk to the residents of the District of Columbia or have a record of not coming to court when they are supposed to, detention is available for them."
By far, the most common age we have seen so far in robbery arrests is 16 years old. And for that age, the attorney general said social media has a very strong pull.
"Young people are making poor decisions, bragging about what they did or what they are going to do on social media," said Racine. "In a perverse way, it is an opportunity for them to gain some notoriety and otherwise gain some street cred."
The attorney general said more than 400 juveniles were charged with robbery last year and his office was able to prosecute 75 percent of them.
D.C. police released a statement to FOX 5 Tuesday evening saying that there were 129 juveniles arrested for robbery from October to January, which are 60 more than we had counted from press releases issued by D.C police. Back in December, we asked the police department's press office if the number of juveniles named in their news releases was the actual number of juveniles arrested for robbery and we were told they were correct.
But in Tuesday's statement, police said:
"The Robbery Intervention Taskforce was launched on December 11, 2015. The mission of the Taskforce was to specifically reduce robbery crime in the District by using intelligence tools and community relations. The Taskforce was extremely successful as robberies fell significantly --13% from 2015 to 2016. Since the launch of the Robbery Intervention Task Force on December 11, 2015, there have been 1,225 robbery arrests (693 Adult, 532 Juvenile). From October 1, 2016 to January 23, 2017, 129 juveniles have been arrested for robbery. Juveniles were arrested in 46% of the 279 robbery arrests. MPD intends to build upon this progress in 2017 by continually improving and honing tactics. We are excited to see that the taskforce has had such a positive effect in a relatively short period of time."
We asked D.C. police for a clarification on their latest numbers and they said, "Crime data is a fluid science, and information gets updated constantly. These numbers are the most current as of right now."