Monday, February 14, 2005

In years past, it was the Air Jordan sneakers, the Starter jackets, the Eddie Bauer parkas. This year, the fashion accessory most likely to get a teenager beaten up at the bus stop is the North Face jacket.

Prince George’s County Police announced yesterday the arrest of five suspects in connection with 17 North Face jacket robberies and 13 car thefts in the county.

The arrests occurred after the Prince George’s County Robbery Suppression Team conducted surveillance for seven days in the Capitol Heights area. The suspects, ages 14 to 18, would approach victims in a stolen vehicle and rob them of their North Face jackets.

“They would drive around a particular area when kids were going to and from school, find kids wearing North Face, produce some sort of weapon and steal the jacket. They’d do this two or three times a day,” said Detective Mike Crowell of the Prince George’s County Robbery Suppression Team.

All five suspects were charged with robbery and felony theft. Three of the suspects are from the District and were charged as adults: Renaldo Perkins, 18; Jercelous Jackson, 17; and Phillip Whitley, 17. Two girls, ages 14 and 17, from Capitol Heights, were charged as juveniles.

Mr. Perkins, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Whitley are in the custody of the Prince George’s County Police and the two girls are on home monitoring.

Three of the suspects were arrested Jan. 26 after being spotted in a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee. The suspects were followed into the District by a Prince George’s County patrol unit. The police found 10 stolen North Face jackets in the Jeep.

“They would take the North Face jackets into D.C. somewhere on Benning Road and sell them for $50,” Detective Crowell said.

The suspects would threaten their victims with a variety of weapons, including a handgun. On Jan. 8, a girl was assaulted while her jacket was taken.

“All of the victims were really shaken up, some wouldn’t go to school for days,” Detective Crowell said.

The North Face brand became popular two years ago with urban teenagers after rappers were seen wearing the jackets in movies and music videos.

“The trend started out in New York; it just started hitting down here. I guess it’s the name. It’s not worth getting beat up over,” said Linwood Robinson, the manager of Last Stop in Southeast, a store that sells the popular apparel.

The cost of North Face jackets can range anywhere from $200 to $450 for a winter jacket to $100 to $200 for a spring jacket.

“They cost a lot. That’s why they’re so popular. Kids can carry themselves as having a lot of money,” Mr. Robinson said.

The North Face clothing firm was started in 1966 by two hiking enthusiasts in San Francisco.

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