- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

ANNAPOLIS — Gangs of teen-age boys and girls have assaulted and robbed pedestrians in four unrelated incidents here during the past month, police said this week.
In most of the cases, the gang has been five to 12 boys who assault lone male pedestrians between 11 p.m. and midnight, often as the victims are about to enter their cars. But in the most recent incident, the female victim said she was attacked by a band of eight girls.
Saturday, Tracey Anne Van Dagna was walking in downtown Annapolis at 11:36 p.m. when she passed a group of girls sitting on steps of the St. Mary's Catholic School several blocks from the waterfront.
Miss Van Dagna, 22, told police she said hello and the girls smiled back.
She said she then saw a black male in a red shirt behind a bush. The girls yelled, "Her, " and began running after her, police said. When they caught up with her, they punched her in the face, knocked her to the ground and continued to punch and kick her. They ran off with her backpack, she told police.
Miss Van Dagna was treated for a broken nose, and neck and back pain, and needed five stitches to close a wound on her left hand.
Police believe the assaults have been committed by different gangs of youth.
"I think they are probably copycat cases," said Officer Harold "Hal" Dalton, spokesman for Annapolis police. "People are hearing about these kind of attacks and they think they can do it, too."
Officer Dalton said the people involved certainly aren't professionals — the loot from the robberies would have amounted to only a small sum for each gang member when divided up.
Miss Van Dagna's loss was certainly the most lucrative: Her $30 backpack contained her purse, wallet, driver's license, two credit cards, a cell phone, $180 worth of clothing, $600 emerald earrings and $160.
None of the property stolen in the robberies has been recovered.
The two attacks in June were armed robberies. At least four of maybe eight teen-age robbers carried guns when they robbed Ricardo Chay just before midnight June 19 as he walked along Belle Drive on the western fringe of Annapolis, Mr. Chay told police.
They threatened to kill him if he didn't give them money. When Mr. Chay refused, they began beating him with their fists and handguns. His screams brought friends to his rescue.
From the ambulance, Mr. Chay identified some suspects and described others. Police ultimately charged seven black youths, ages 15 to 17, with first-degree assault and attempted robbery.
The next night, at 11:05 p.m., 10 youths, one with a gun, approached Vedamurthy Krishnan after he delivered pizza in the unit block of Peters Way. The gang demanded money, and one tried to take his car. Mr. Krishnan ran back to the pizza customer's house and called police.
Last week, four youths, estimated to be between 12 and 18 years old, attacked and robbed Juan Mercado. Mr. Mercado, 37, was walking from his job at the Marriott Hotel near the harbor to his car near Compromise and Newman streets, which are adjacent to St. Mary's Catholic Church and school.
At 11 p.m. July 19, as Mr. Mercado opened the car door, they began beating him, yelling: "Kill him. Kill him. Do it." They yanked the bag Mr. Mercado was carrying away from him and ran away.
Mr. Mercado had seen the youths at a basketball court across the street from the Annapolis Recreation Center, where a sign says the park closes after dark and forbids loitering. Another sign outside the rec center labels it a Neighborhood Watch area, one of 60 in this city of 38,800 residents.
What has happened here the past several weeks is suggestive of the "wildings" that have occurred across the nation in the past decade. Most recently, for instance, teen-age males rampaged through Central Park in New York City, stripping and groping females.
Advisories about the robberies have been distributed to neighborhood-watch groups, which have alerted their residents to walk only in well-lighted areas at night and call police about any suspicious activities. Officer Dalton said police patrols are more frequent now in neighborhoods that seem susceptible to robberies.
Many residents said this week they were not aware of the incidents.
"We hadn't heard of it," said Kevin Wright, 21, who lives about 100 yards from St. Mary's Church.
"It doesn't surprise me. There's a pretty rough crowd down that way," said his wife, Katie, 18, as she pointed toward communities where the first robberies occurred.

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