“Today’s carjacker is your shooter tomorrow": DC US attorney shares Project Safe Neighborhood data

When the U.S. Attorney for DC announced results of a two-year federal partnership targeting D.C.’s most violent offenders last week, he shared startling information showing that of the 127 cases taken-up under this "Project Safe Neighborhood" effort, more than half - or about 61% - were juveniles at first arrest. 

The average age of arrest was noted as 17-years-old. 

The U.S Attorney Matthew Graves was asked about the data and said in part of his response, "If you look at the medium age of a person arrested for armed carjacking it was, I think 15 last year in the District. Whereas the median age of someone arrested for a shooting is, was around 29, right? But like when we look at everything, and we kind of look at it all together, it is today’s carjacker is your shooter tomorrow."

Gaves went on to say that "The stakes are really high" for putting people on a different path, noting the outcome of the 127 cases federal partners had worked on. 

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves makes remarks at a press conference with the ATF, FBI-WFO, FBI-NK, MPD, USMS to announce charges in an indictment alleging a multi-state Hobbs Act robbery spree, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bi

Seeking more answers on how the city is responding, FOX 5 reached out to the D.C. Attorney General’s Office. 

The D.C. AG is tasked with prosecuting the city’s youth. The AG also has the ability to petition a judge to charge a 15-year-old as an adult in certain, serious crimes. It would ultimately be the judge’s decision. 

READ MORE: DC teens aged 13-16 arrested for multiple crimes, including attempted carjacking of Grubhub driver

A spokesperson for the OAG told FOX 5 it’s a tool the AG can use but has not done so yet. 

The office declined an interview with FOX 5. A spokesperson wrote in a statement: 

"Last year, OAG charged 88% of the most violent juvenile crimes, including murder, manslaughter, and attempted murder, and 80% of juvenile gun possession cases. We diverted only 7.2% of all cases. Since AG Schwalb took office last year, OAG prosecutors are both charging a higher total number of cases and charging cases at an overall higher rate."

The spokesperson also said the 7.2% is 144 out of 2,007 cases in Fiscal Year 2023. In the first quarter of FY24, the OAG says 5% of total cases presented to their office were diverted. 

READ MORE: Teen grazed in head by bullet after involved in armed carjacking in DC: police

If diverted, that does not mean the juvenile is let go "Scott free." Those prosecuted and detained then go to Youth Service Center (YSC), which falls under local DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). 

FOX 5 also reached out to DYRS regarding what kind of contacts that 61% had. However, it’s always difficult to be able to learn more information in this area due to juvenile privacy laws. 

A DYRS Spokesperson told FOX 5 in a statement:

"The Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) collaborates closely with various organizations within the District's juvenile justice ecosystem to provide comprehensive support and services to the District’s court-involved youth. This includes working with law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and other stakeholders to provide the necessary care and attention that facilitates rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society. While DYRS is committed to transparency and accountability, there are certain limitations to the data that can be shared regarding initiatives led by external partners such as the United States Attorney's Office (USAO). In this case, the USAO may be able to provide more clarity and a detailed breakdown of data attached to the ‘Project Safe Neighborhood’ initiative." 

It is important to know Total Violent Crime and Homicides are down over 20% in the District. 

READ MORE: Community demands accountability for juvenile crimes at carjacking panel in Southeast

However, those who spoke with FOX 5 about juvenile crime in their neighborhoods or areas of work, did not feel the city is doing enough to address juvenile crime. 

"Not handling it well, especially in Southeast," said a woman, who when asked what she thinks the solution is, told FOX 5, "really don’t know because I don’t see any answer."

"More reaching out. When you take away their programs that keep them occupied in a positive, doing productive things, what other outlet [are] they going to go to?" said a woman who identified her first name only as Kimberly.

When asked why she did not agree with holding parents more accountable, Kimberly told FOX 5, "Society hasn’t allowed that. Society took that away from parents, so you can’t hold them – parents accountable. You have to hold the government accountable because they’re the ones that make the system"

READ MORE: DC's teen carjacking crisis and the complex blame game leaders are playing

"It’s a ‘both’ and instead of an ‘either, or.’ If there are parents who are not equipped, they were once children who were not given the equipment," said Katherine Ruckle, who actually lives in Greenbelt, Maryland, where several students were shot participating in a non-sanctioned "Senior Skip Day" event, "If the numbers are down that’s awesome, but that shouldn’t be good enough. The city never needs to stop asking, ‘How can we make things better?" 

Earlier this month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced legislation called, "UPLIFT." It’s supposed to address youth truancy and hold youths more accountable as officials connect juvenile crime to school absentee issues. The does not seek to "punish" parents but does require them to have better participation. 

The OAG told FOX 5 in early April they were still weighing a portion of that bill that seeks to limit juvenile diversion. When asked again this week, FOX 5 was told the OAG is still reviewing.