The teen accused of driving a stolen Jeep at Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio has a history of stealing cars.
During 16-year-old Dawnta Harris’ bail hearing on Tuesday, state prosecutors revealed the teen was arrested four times for auto theft since December 2017.
There’s been an increase in auto-thefts in Baltimore County. In 2016, there were more than 1,500 thefts. In 2017, the number increased to more than 1,600.
However, in Baltimore City, car thefts are actually down when looking at the year to date. Still, there’s been 1,500 car thefts so far this year in the City, and 170 carjackings.
We’ve also seen several recent carjacking incidents in Baltimore County.
On March 3, a pizza delivery driver was carjacked in White Marsh. On April 20, a pregnant teacher was carjacked outside a Parkville elementary school. And on April 26, another teacher and a woman were carjacked at knifepoint in the area of Lochearn. Police made arrests in all of these incidents and all of the suspects were juveniles.
“Unfortunately, there's been a lot of juveniles involved in it and with the one question, ‘are we concerned?’ Yes, we are, because of this increase in the arrest of juveniles in Baltimore County and juveniles especially associated with carjacking cases,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan.
Baltimore County Police established a dedicated carjacking team late last year. Chief Sheridan said there's been progress but the trends are unsettling.
Harris’ track record is even more alarming to the insurance industry.
“It is frustrating, especially when you see someone who's so prolific at doing a crime or in this example when someone has a history of stealing cars and is still on the street,” said Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). “We’ve seen that around the country where there's been sort of a lax attitude for whatever reason on auto theft or auto thieves and until there's some public pressure brought to bear, those problems will persist.”
The NICB monitors auto thefts in the region, and here they’ve seen an increase.
In 2016, there were more than 8,500 thefts compared to 7,950 in 2015 and 7,100 in 2014.
Scafidi knows cars are stolen for their parts, but he says they're also seeing how they’re being used to commit crimes.
“So rather than drive their personal vehicle to a bank to rob it, they steal a car, they do the crime, they leave the area and dump the car not too far from the crime and it's left for law enforcement to recover later,” Scafidi said.
Even though car theft deterrent systems are becoming more advanced, the NICB said a lot of the times, failed security systems are due to user error or what Jethro Jenkins sees time and time again in Canton – people tempting thieves.
“Don't leave anything in your car. They want to shop too. They got their dry-cleaning, they’re going to take it. You have a $500 deductible but your stuff is gone. You got a laptop laying on the seat, they’re going to take it without an issue,” said Jenkins.
He has neighbors who have been carjacked, he's seen teens checking for unlocked car doors every night, and he says we owe it to ourselves to be vigilant.
“When you come out of your door, you look both ways. When you’re getting out your car, don't get out of your car, sit there for a minute and look around you to see what's going on. You owe that to yourself because nobody is going to cover you like you,” Jenkins said.
The NICB also partners with local law enforcement to assist in identifying stolen vehicles. They say you can easily tell by the VIN number whether a car is stolen, and car manufacturers also hide that VIN number in a confidential place that can't be tampered with.