10-year-old accused in yo-yo theft was on supervised probation Incident in May led to 30 days in custody


The 10-year-old East Baltimore boy who allegedly used a handgun to rob an 8-year-old of a yo-yo was on supervised probation for a similar crime when city police arrested him last week.

The boy, who was not identified because of his age, has been confined at a state juvenile holding facility since Friday under the order of a Baltimore court master, according to state juvenile authorities. The facility was identified by sources as the Thomas J. S. Waxter Children's Center in Laurel.

The 10-year-old was arrested Thursday in the 1400 block of Holbrook Street, in the Oliver community of East Baltimore, after an 8-year-old boy claimed that the suspect approached him and a friend, told him to put his hands in the air and robbed him of a yo-yo at gunpoint, police said.

The 10-year-old was charged as a juvenile with armed assault and robbery. Police said the yo-yo was recovered -- but not the gun.

The boy's arrest in the yo-yo case came nearly two months after he went to court June 18 on charges that he robbed a 9-year-old of a propeller beanie after allegedly holding a .22-caliber revolver to the boy's head.

At the time of his May 17 arrest, the boy was a fourth-grader at the Bernard Harris Elementary School in the 1400 block of North Caroline Street -- but barred from class under a suspension for disciplinary reasons, a school system spokesman said yesterday.

The boy claimed that he found the gun near an abandoned house.

That weapon was seized by police.

The boy was found "delinquent" in the beanie theft by a Juvenile Court master, according to Jacqueline M. Lampell, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. The master ordered the boy returned to his mother and placed on supervised probation, Ms. Lampell said.

Ms. Lampell said she believed that, as part of the boy's probation, he was enrolled in an intensive supervision program known as Choice, in which staff members meet with clients twice weekly and have daily telephone contact.

But Ms. Lampell said she couldn't provide any details about the terms of the probation and his performance because she did not have access to the child's files. She also could not say whether there was regular contact between the boy or his mother and Choice staffers.

The director of Choice, Mark Shriver, could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Lampell said it would be unreasonable to expect that there should be no instance of repeat offenses among the thousands of children whose at-home probations are supervised by the juvenile services department.

"It is not a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week operation," Ms. Lampell said. "Remember, there are 44,000 cases we handle each year in the state."

When the 10-year-old was arrested in connection with the beanie theft, he was on suspension for unrelated disciplinary reasons, Douglas J. Neilson, a school spokesman, said last night. The boy has been a concern to school officials who have been working with him since he was a second-grader, Mr. Neilson said.

"They have known that he has had some problems at home," Mr. Neilson said. "They have been working with him, trying to keep him on the right path."

The spokesman added that the school was never notified by juvenile authorities of the child's May 17 arrest in the beanie theft and that they learned of it only after the boy's grandmother came to school seeking help from the principal, Alma Brown, Mr. Neilson said.

"That is unfortunately, very unfortunately, a common problem," Mr. Neilsonsaid. "The grandmother and the principal got together with the authorities handling the young man, and they started working together. The grandmother seems to be the stable influence in the young man's life. So we've been working with her too since second grade."

Prior to the boy's arrest in the beanie theft, Mr. Neilson said, the school had evaluated the child to determine if he needed a special academic program but determined he did not, Mr. Neilson said. The school also screened the 10-year-old to identify any special education problems. The results of that evaluation -- were unavailable last night.

Mr. Neilson said school officials had made appointments with the child's mother to discuss the cause for his suspension before the beanie incident. But the meeting with the boy's mother did not take place until after the school year ended, he said.

Mr. Neilson said the boy will not be returning to Bernard Harris this fall. He said he did not know where the boy would attend school.

The boy's present confinement at the Waxter Center is not his first. Following his May 17 arrest, he was sent to the Laurel center for a 30-day psychological evaluation, state officials said.

The Waxter Center typically has about three dozen children ranging in age from 8 to 18. Children usually stay no more than 30 days while they undergo psychological examinations. They may then be referred back to the Juvenile Court system, placed in a long-term juvenile detention facility, or sent home.

Children as young as 10 who commit crimes are not tried by the adult justice system, and may only be found to have committed a "delinquent act."

Delinquents are supervised by the juvenile services agency, which may arrange informal counseling or may send the child to a detention center for up to 90 days, said Baltimore Deputy State's Attorney Alexander J. Palenscar.

The juvenile services department may also refer the child to the state's attorney's office, which may recommend a range of solutions to a juvenile master, including detention or enrollment in a counseling or substance abuse program.

Residents and community leaders in Oliver said although some families in the area are headed by stable, working parents, most children in the neighborhood are being raised by single mothers -- many of whom are in their late teens or early 20s.

The community was the scene of both thefts involving the 10-year-old.

Burdened by joblessness, high rents and a lack of guidance on the responsibilities of parenthood, many of the young mothers are overwhelmed by parenthood, and exert little control over their children, residents say.

Randy J. Hall, who has run Randy's grocery store at the corner of Oliver and Holbrook for 31 years, said the 10-year-old boy was a frequent customer.

He said the boy was like many of the other children who can be seen in the neighborhood.

"This kid, he's not a bad kid, all he wants is attention," Mr. Hall said. "If you don't pay him any attention he'll do a million things, but if you call him down, he's respectful."

Reporter Ann LoLordo of The Sun's metropolitan staf contributed to this article.

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