SAN LEANDRO -- A police task force is in the works to combat recent violence by packs of teens that officials describe as "wildings," apparently centered around BART transit lines in Alameda County.
The move comes after attacks in San Leandro, where large groups of teens allegedly attacked and robbed people in recent days at Bayfair Center and near a BART station.
San Leandro police, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and BART police will meet Friday to coordinate a response in the event there's more violence this weekend, said San Leandro police Lt. Robert McManus, who will lead a task force grappling with nearly 20 similar robberies. Law enforcement agencies involved will include Berkeley, Oakland, Newark, Hayward and Union City.
The robberies and attacks can be described as "wildings," McManus said.
"It may not all be the same group but it is the same type of activity, where it's unruly groups of teens that are primarily traveling by BART train and coming out to intimidate and commit crimes of opportunity and are attacking the victims in packs," McManus said. "A task force is being created. We've reached out to all law enforcement agencies that have a BART line."
About 5 p.m. on May 31, San Leandro officers responded to Bayfair Center for a report of 80-100 rowdy teens in the food court, challenging and intimidating mall patrons.
No crime was committed there, McManus said, but the group was asked to leave the property by security and police.
The mall, he said, has a policy that prohibits groups greater than five from hanging out unless they are accompanied by a parent.
The teens left the property, went to the Bayfair BART station and for the next five hours, San Leandro and BART police attempted to disperse the crowd, McManus said.
During that period, one of the teens who had a handgun accidentally shot himself, McManus said. The teen shot himself in the foot while crossing a pedestrian bridge near the station just after 8 p.m., said BART Lt. Michael Hayes. He was taken to a nearby hospital, treated and released and then arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm while on probation.
As BART police were busy with that shooting, a group of the teens returned to Bayfair mall and chased down and attacked two other teens not related o their group, McManus said.
Both victims tried to run away, but members of the group chased one of them across the parking lot and across Fairmont Drive before catching, beating and kicking him, and removing his Nike shoes and iPhone, police said. The second victim was able to escape and contacted police.
Then on Monday, two teenagers were arrested on suspicion of attacking and robbing a couple in their car near the 2000 block of East 14th Street about 4:40 p.m. Police say a man, woman and 2-year-old child were in a car driving into a parking lot when a large group of teens blocked the entrance and told people in the car to go around.
The adults got out of the car to confront the youths, and one of the teens responded by throwing a metal chair that nearly hit the woman, police said. During the confrontation, another teen ransacked the passenger compartment, and another teen got into the driver's seat, put the car into gear and began driving out of the parking lot with the baby in tow, police said. That teen stopped the car just before police showed up, police said.
In the aftermath, the victims discovered a computer tablet and iPhone were stolen from the car, police said. The two teens arrested over that incident were expected to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, carjacking, kidnapping and child endangerment. It was not yet known if they would be tried as adults.
The arrests occurred about 40 minutes after police said three older teenagers swiped a shopping bag with Nike shoes from two middle-school students walking in the 2100 block of East 14th Street. One of the teens grabbed the boy carrying the bag and tried to rip away the bag, and when the student fought back, another of the teens pulled out a black handgun and pistol-whipped him into unconsciousness, Lt. Rick DeCosta said. He received stitches at a hospital but was otherwise OK, DeCosta said.
The other middle-school student ran away, but at least one of the teens caught up to him, punched him, threw him to the ground, then forcibly removed the Nike's from his feet. That boy also had his iPhone stolen, DeCosta said.
The concept of "wilding," McManus said, began in the late '80s on the East Coast.
"It popped up in New York in 1989 -- that's where this kind of mob mentality started. It's been seen since in Florida, Philadelphia, L.A. and in Chicago last year," McManus said. "We plan to meet tomorrow or Friday to discuss the matter. The reason for it is that all of our cities are being affect by the same type of criminal behavior and it's becoming a regional issue. We know that by working together we can likely come up with solutions to hopefully solve the problem before anyone else is victimized by this type of behavior."
Anyone with information is urged to call the San Leandro Police Department at 510-577-3230. Anonymous tips can be left at 510-577-3278.
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.