Alameda County police agencies meet to form response to 'wilding'

Saturday, June 7, 2014
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Local police are out in force after several 'wilding' incidents where large groups of teens committed crimes in the East Bay along BART lines.

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KGO) -- For the past month, marauding bands of teenagers have been committing random crimes in East Bay cities along the I-880 corridor. Now, those cities are banding together and holding their first meeting to create a multi-agency task force to deal with this problem.

This is a trend called "wilding" and tying to monitor these large groups of teenagers is sapping these police departments of their resources. So the San Leandro Police Department is creating a task force that will be ready to respond against these bands of teens.

BART passengers say the large groups have been congregating at the bus stop before they walk over to the Bayfair Mall where they have been causing lots of problems. With over 100 teens roaming the streets, the police have been way outnumbered.

"They have kids that just come in here, they jump over the gates all the time," San Leandro resident Andrew Ward said.

When asked what the teens were doing, BART passenger Debra Booze replied, "Harassing people. One guy was exposing himself at one time."

Police believe this "wilding" trend was sparked by a YouTube video where about 600 teens roamed the streets of Chicago last year committing crimes.

San Leandro police say as many as 100 teens have assaulted and robbed people, mostly in the Bayfair Mall area. They're using BART to wreak havoc up and down the East Bay and just last Tuesday, a group of 60 were roaming the streets of Hayward. Police arrested one teen before they got on a BART train and headed to San Leandro where police were quickly notified and turned them away. The new plan will alert more officers from Oakland to Hayward.

"We need strength in numbers in order to safely curb the problem. With our primary focus being public safety, and giving them the ability to respond throughout Alameda County to address the issues at hand, so that not just five or six officers will show up, but 20 or 30 will," said San Leandro Police Lt. Robert McMannus. He added the teens are doing this "for the purposes of doing nothing but terrorizing people and intimidating others and committing other acts of crime."

San Leandro police say most of these teens are using social media to organize their rampages. Also, as the school year winds down, they say they're seeing more of these "wilding" incidents take place and a lot of these incidents happen on Friday and Saturday night.

Police say many of the "wilding" crimes are affecting the Bayfair Center mall and other downtown shopping areas in surrounding cities.

"You see a lot of people just leaving the area and shopping elsewhere. It's sad," Ward said.

The task force is still being formed, but police say a full task force will be ready to respond as early as next week.