Two workers are assaulted by youths downtown

A group of youths attacked a federal office worker and a BGE employee Thursday morning in downtown Baltimore in random assaults that police said were related.

The workers suffered injuries described as minor in the latest in a series of violent incidents in the heart of the city.

Police are also investigating a fight that occurred at Charles and Lombard streets about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday involving youths who may have been wearing school uniforms. Police said they believe that incident is unrelated to Thursday's attacks, and they are looking at video surveillance to identify those involved.

Eight days ago, a large group of youths stole candy and attacked the owner of 7-Eleven on Light Street during a Slurpee giveaway promotion. Detectives using video footage identified the youths involved as students from Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical Senior High School in Northeast Baltimore, but no arrests have been made.

The string of incidents has prompted the police commander in charge of the Central District, Maj. Dennis Smith, to order more downtown foot patrols during the morning and evening rush hours, and when schools begin and let out for the day.

Police said they're also looking at teaming up with school police.

"We want to partner with the school system," said city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. "We want to quickly identify those involved, and it's easier to do that with the school police."

Guglielmi said the first attack Thursday occurred about 5 a.m. as the victim was walking into the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. headquarters in the 100 block of W. Fayette St. near Charles Street. Police said the youths approached the man from behind and one hit him on the right side of the head. He fled into the building as the youths ran away, and declined medical attention.

About two hours later, police said, a 51-year-old man was attacked outside the Fallon Federal Building at Hopkins Plaza, on South Charles Street between West Baltimore and West Lombard streets. Guglielmi said the victim was "punched in the head and kicked while on the ground," but was not hurt seriously enough to require medical attention.

Police said neither victim was robbed and that video surveillance footage confirms that the same group of youths attacked both men. They were described only as four males and one female wearing white T-shirts and dark colored shorts. One youth in the second attack was shirtless, but police said he had a white T-shirt stuffed in his back left pocket.

Hopkins Plaza is typically a busy square three blocks northwest of the Inner Harbor, near several downtown hotels, the convention center and 1st Mariner Arena. Police did not have any details on the victim or where he worked. The Fallon building contains offices for several agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Court.

The extra rush-hour police patrols come in addition to the heightened weekend deployment ordered by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake after hundreds of teens converged on the downtown area on St. Patrick's Day and fought for more than two hours. School police officers are staffing a post outside the Gallery, a shopping mall on Pratt Street that attracts many students.

The repeated incidents have raised questions about security and safety as the summer season approaches. The city is gearing up for several large-scale tourist events, including June's 2012 Star-Spangled Sailabration commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, as well as Fourth of July fireworks, Artscape and the Grand Prix road race.

On Thursday, Del. Patrick McDonough continued his pressure on city officials, proposing what he calls a "Solutions Summit" and the creation of a Maryland Youth Advocacy Fund to raise money through private contributions to fund youth initiatives.

McDonough, a Republican representing Baltimore and Harford counties, had earlier complained about "black youth mobs" terrorizing the city and had asked the governor to declare the Inner Harbor a "no-travel zone."

The delegate challenged Rawlings-Blake to a debate, characterizing her as a "name caller and a dodger" and accusing her of failing to face the city's crime problem.

Mayoral spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said that McDonough "should debate himself and his Republican colleagues who supported deep cuts to the Police Department and cuts to gun prosecutions" under a "doomsday" budget plan that had been set to take effect before this month's special legislative session.

The spokesman said the cuts — avoided after the General Assembly voted to raise taxes on the state's top wage earners — would have decimated public safety in the city, abolishing 92 police positions, firing 18 prosecutors and eliminating police academy classes.

"Crime is down to historic lows in Baltimore because of the smart investments that the city and the state have made in public safety," O'Doherty said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Arthur Hirsch contributed to this article.


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