Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo was clearly upbeat just before a news conference July 27. He had reason to be. The night before, police had arrested two 15-year-old males in connection with an assault near the Grove Street area of the Roosevelt Brown Boulevard that had the markings of other assaults that have occurred Downtown. One teen is a city resident while the other resides at Lake Monticello. Longo says he has "every reason" to believe the two (only one of whom was wearing a white t-shirt) might be connected to past assaults.
With assaults near the Downtown Mall continuing, city police are working a number of different angles trying to prevent similar crimes and catch the people who’re committing them. Longo says that he hopes the arrests will be a break in the series of assaults in the city. And while he says the department has added plainclothes officers and stepped up uniformed patrols in the areas where the assaults have occurred, he is tight lipped about any sting operations.
Longo says the department is using the city’s juvenile curfew laws—midnight Monday through Friday, 1am Saturday and Sunday—to identify the people behind the attacks. "Our midnight shift has used the curfew ordinance as an enforcement tool when applicable," he says. "The ordinance requires that a warning be given before an official charge is sought. In most cases, the violators are identified, the contact is documented and the child is brought home to an adult."
While Longo was careful to avoid characterizing the most resent assault as gang-related, he said he "has reason to believe these two individuals are associated with what could be characterized as a street gang."
As for motives, Longo says police have a variety of theories. One is that the assaults stem from a competition between two groups or gangs. Another is that the reoccurring beatings have been fueled by media coverage. "This is getting a lot of attention," he says. "It might be ‘Let’s see who can get on the front page, above the fold, the quickest tomorrow.’"
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