3 teens captured after escaping detention center

Youths aided by 2 outsiders, official says

May 25, 2006|By GREG GARLAND | GREG GARLAND,SUN REPORTER

Three youths managed what juvenile services officials are calling a "brazen" but brief daylight escape from a detention center in Montgomery County on Monday with help from two people on the outside who cut a hole in a fence and helped them crawl through it.

Edward Hopkins, a spokesman for the state Department of Juvenile Services, said the three and a youth who helped them escape from the Alfred D. Noyes Children's Center were caught within 90 minutes, after they boarded a shuttle bus at a nearby hospital.

Noyes is among juvenile centers that an independent monitor has pointed to as overcrowded, insufficiently staffed and lacking in programs to keep youths occupied. The facility housed 69 youths on Monday, 12 more than its rated capacity.

Hopkins said crowding and staffing levels were not factors in the escape, which he said appeared to have been carefully planned and well-timed.

He said 18 youths at Noyes had just finished a class about 11 a.m. and were being escorted back to their rooms by four staff members when three of the boys suddenly leaped over a walkway railing and raced toward a fence. Hopkins said an adult male and a youth were observed cutting the fence at a spot that had been marked with a green bandana.

"We think it was a message -- a `go' signal -- or else it's gang-related," the juvenile services spokesman said.

Hopkins said the two people cutting the fence made eye contact with staff members and did not attempt to hide their faces or conceal what they were doing.

"The adult and the youth could [not] have cared less," he said. "It was pretty brazen. As they got to the fence, the youth pulled it open and the three kids shot through the fence."

Hopkins said staff sounded an escape alert, called police and took other youths to a secure area. Some workers ran after the fleeing teenagers, while others took off in cars in the direction the boys were headed.

"Both police and our own people were able to track four of them to Shady Grove Hospital," he said.

The adult who helped with the escape had not been caught as of yesterday afternoon, Hopkins said. But the boy, 15, who helped cut open the fence was arrested with the other youths and charged with assisting escapees, malicious destruction of property and other offenses.

Hopkins said two of the three youths who slipped through the fence were 15 and one was 16.

One boy -- at Noyes for stealing cars, robbery and running away from another detention center -- has been waiting since January for a spot to open in a treatment program, Hopkins said. Several privately run facilities had rejected the youth as unsuitable for their programs, but one recently agreed to accept him, Hopkins said.

Hopkins said a second youth also was waiting to be placed in a treatment program. The boy is charged with stealing cars, assault and drug related charges. The third youth had been in detention at Noyes since May 11 for violating probation and was charged with car theft, burglary and property crimes, Hopkins said.

greg.garland@baltsun.com

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