Baltimore police are finding an alarming pattern: roving groups of armed teenagers, working around the clock and across the city, brazenly targeting victims for cash, cellphones and other belongings, the Baltimore Sun reports. Police say the attacks are helping to drive the highest rate of robberies the city has seen in years. “We just have a larger pool of suspects because we are now seeing juveniles who don’t have a juvenile record being involved in these crimes,” said Maj. Kimberly Burrus, commander of the district detective unit, which investigates robberies citywide. Robberies were up 12 percent this year through Sept. 24.
Gavin Patashnick, chief of the juvenile division in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office, said the trend is not necessarily new, but one that prosecutors are trying to combat. “The public’s fed up, and the perception is that we live in a Clockwork Orange world where kids are roaming around and beating people up,” he said. “We’re always trying to figure out the answer, what the magic bullet will be to solve violence, particularly youth violence.” Ericka Alston-Buck, who heads Kids Safe Zone in West Baltimore, said youth crime — even when it appears brazen or careless — is often an expression of the teens’ own vulnerability. Kids can be compelled toward crime, she said, either as a means of social or physical survival in impoverished neighborhoods, or as an emotional release after suffering trauma in their dysfunctional family lives. “We’ve got all these lost kids,” she said.