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Police hope latest arrests will halt trend of downtown attacks by juvenile suspects

Baltimore Police are hoping recent arrests halt a trend of juvenile attacks downtown

A woman was randomly surrounded by a group of kids and yanked to the ground by her ponytail. A homeless woman was hit in the face. A third woman and a man were each punched.

Baltimore Police say the attacks were all committed by groups of juveniles near the Inner Harbor late last month. Officers were investigating the trend of attacks when video surfaced this week of a man being similarly surrounded and attacked on Tuesday.

"It's the same type of method, just assaulting for no purpose — no rhyme or reason — an individual who is walking," said T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, of the attack on the man near the Charles Center Metro Station.

Nine people — eight juveniles and an 18-year-old man — were arrested in the Tuesday attack, and police hope the arrests will help halt the trend.

Smith said the Police Department believes the same group is responsible for other, similar attacks in the area in recent weeks, but did not specify which incidents or say how many attacks police believe were committed by the group. None of the suspects had been charged in additional attacks as of Thursday.

The man in the recorded attack on Tuesday had his phone taken, but Smith said attackers in other incidents downtown did not take phones and other belongings from the victims. They were seemingly intent on committing an assault with no other motivation, he said.

Charging documents for Derrell Smith, the 18-year-old man who police said was the group's ringleader and the only adult charged in the incident, were not available on Thursday. His case did not appear in online court records and it was unclear if he had an attorney. He is charged with robbery and second-degree assault, police said.

Police did not identify the eight arrested juveniles. They were a 12-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, two 14-year-old boys, a 14-year-old girl, and a 16-year-old boy and girl, all from Baltimore, and a 13-year-old Baltimore County boy.

The other four incidents occurred around the Inner Harbor over Presidents Day weekend, raising concerns among local business owners and the Downtown Partnership.

Police said they increased patrols in the downtown area after the incidents. Suspects had been detained in some of the incidents, but the victims were unable to identify them, police said.

Michael Evitts, vice president for communications for the Downtown Partnership, said the attacks "were of concern but we're hearing from stakeholders who are reassured by the police response and quick arrests."

The University of Maryland put out an alert about another incident near Lexington Market last week, in which a woman reported that a group of about 15 juveniles knocked her to the ground and stole her cellphone before fleeing.

Such attacks are classified as robberies when property is stolen or aggravated assaults when property is not stolen, police said.

Both kinds of crime are up significantly in the city compared to last year.

As of Feb. 25, according to city data, robberies were up 40 percent over the same time last year and aggravated assaults were up 45 percent.

In the Central District, which includes downtown, robberies were up 15 percent, while aggravated assaults were up 34 percent.

krector@baltsun.com

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