The two girls, ages 13 and 15, had just allegedly used a stun device in their botched carjacking attempt, a man was lying broken before them on the ground — and their concern was retrieving a cellphone. Were they in shock? Was it a sign of self-centered immaturity? Perhaps it was a total lack of empathy, the very thing that could prompt the recklessness that resulted in the death of a man and charges of murder against two teenage girls.
The death of Mr. Anwar, who immigrated from Pakistan and was working as an Uber Eats driver, was captured on video that went viral. It has brought to the fore some of the issues the District confronts as it experiences a troubling wave of carjackings and car thefts. As of Monday, there had been 101 carjackings in D.C. this year, compared with 22 during the same period in 2020. There has been a 35 percent increase in auto theft. D.C. is not alone in experiencing a spike in these crimes; neighboring Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have seen a rise, as have other cities across the country. One cause may be the pandemic: More delivery people are on the roads, providing more opportunities for crime, and closed schools have left many young people unsupervised.
The involvement of juveniles is of particular concern in the District. There have been 23 arrests this year of youths, ages 12 to 17, on carjacking charges. The Post’s Peter Hermann, Justin Jouvenal and Paul Duggan reported one 14-year-old was charged in two armed carjackings and three armed robberies on a single day in January. Days after the arrest of the two girls in Mr. Anwar’s death, police announced the arrest of two 13-year-old boys in two other armed carjackings.
Police say that in many instances the young people simply want the thrill of a joyride and the vehicles are quickly recovered. What, though, are the consequences? Police said that one of the girls charged in Mr. Anwar’s death was arrested after participating in a similar incident in January. Acting D.C. police chief Robert Contee told Fox 5 News that several carjacking suspects “are involved in multiple, multiple cases,” adding that there was a need to review “the accountability that’s in place.”
The girls’ case will be handled by a juvenile court, where confidentiality rules prevent the public from learning what might have motivated this crime. A judge has refused even to allow disclosure of whether the girls have been detained. D.C. officials involved in juvenile issues have rightly stressed rehabilitation rather than punishment of troubled youths. But the city needs to confront the failure represented by the death of Mr. Anwar and put in place the safeguards needed to better protect the public.