Five teenagers have been arrested in a weeks-long Carroll County "vandalism spree" that caused $20,000 worth of damage to 129 cars and saw more than $5,000 worth of portable electronics, jewelry and other valuables stolen, according to the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.
"The only explanation given for this is a case of youthful mischief," said Major Phil Kasten, a sheriff's office spokesman.
Police said the teens, all North Carroll High School students between the ages of 14 and 17, began their crime spree on Aug. 4, spending the night shattering car windshields, bending antennas and removing nearly $1,500 worth of valuables and prescription drugs from vehicles parked in residential driveways.
On Sept. 23, they allegedly had their most destructive night, entering more than 50 vehicles, stealing about $1,300 in valuables, slashing a tire and Jeep top and pushing vehicles from driveways. One vehicle was shoved across the street into a tree, and a Molotov cocktail-like explosive was left on the front seat of another vehicle, police said.
On Oct. 6, Hampstead Police Officer Russell Halterman stopped a black Volkswagen Jetta after he witnessed it speeding out of the Oakmont Green neighborhood, police said. Three of the teens were in the car.
As he was writing a ticket, a 911 call came in reporting several car windshields had just been smashed in the neighborhood. Halterman then connected the Jetta with vehicle descriptions in previous reports of destruction in the county, and observed a magazine for a pellet gun and airsoft pellets in the Jetta, police said.
He then searched the vehicle and found three pellet guns, and the three teens "acknowledged their involvement in shattering the windows" and were arrested, police said.
In the following days, the parents of two other teens contacted police about their children's involvement as well, police said.
All five teens have been released into the custody of their parents pending action by the juvenile courts, and the parents have worked cooperatively with police to identify additional stolen property, Kasten said.
The sheriff's office, Hampstead Police and the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshall all worked together to investigate the crime spree and end it.
All five teens have been charged with theft, scheming to commit theft, rogue and vagabond, malicious destruction of property, scheming to commit malicious destruction of property, damaging or tampering with a vehicle, reckless endangerment and conspiracy.
Four of them have also been charged with second-degree malicious burning and manufacturing a destructive device. The teens were not identified because they have been charged as juveniles.
Serious property crimes account for 85 percent of all crime in Carroll County, and much of that involves "theft of valuables taken from unlocked homes, sheds, garages and yards," Kasten said.
More than three quarters of the thefts committed during the teens' spree occurred in unlocked vehicles, Kasten said, and police are working with residents to lock their car doors and remove valuables.
"Working together with residents to remove their valuables from sight and lock up their vehicles can deter and prevent some of these crimes from occurring," he said.
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