Alameda task force created to combat teen crime

A new trend has emerged in Alameda county dubbed "wilding," which involves a group of teenagers who rob people in packs, commit vandalism and harass pedestrians. In one incident that occurred on Monday, June 2, a group of young men stopped a vehicle with a couple inside and attempted to rob the car. There was a child inside the vehicle, so when the police caught two of the suspects they were charged with kidnapping and child endangerment as well as assault with a deadly weapon and carjacking.

Police suspect that the teens arrive on BART from the Bay Area, and that teens are using the public transportation system to carry out these crimes. The attacks are taking place all along Interstate 880. It is not clear if "wildling" is being done by one group of teens or several.

Every weekend for several weeks "wildling" has occurred at the Bayfair Center. Not all incidents result in criminal charges. Late in May, police dispersed a group of 80-100 teens at the Bayfair Center food court for "challenging and intimidating mall patrons." However, none of the teens were charged with a crime.

The new trend is suspected to have originated from a Chicago-based YouTube video showing a mob of teens engaged in harassing behavior and vandalism. However, wildling has been around for decades, first appearing in New York in the late 80s. According to San Leandro Police Lieutenant Robert McManus, wildling has since been seen all along the East Coast.

"All of our cities are being affect[ed] by the same type of criminal behavior and its becoming a regional issue," McNamus told the San Jose Mercury News.

In response, the San Leandro police department has created a task force to combat teen violence and robbery. Law enforcement from Hayward, Union City, Berkeley, Oakland and Newark will also participate in the crackdown.

Juvenile crime in California

The wildling trend is worrying for a variety of reasons. Wildling poses a danger to communities and innocent bystanders. And teens who participate face severe repercussions for their actions. Teens can make poor choices, especially when in groups. But a conviction for a crime, even as a minor, can mean a lifetime of consequences.

In response to concerns about the overly punitive nature of the juvenile justice system in the state, the California State Legislature recently introduced a bill that would automatically seal the record of offenders under the age of 18 if they successfully complete probation. The bill, SB 1038, excludes 30 crimes considered too "serious" to merit an automatic seal. These include such crimes as arson, murder and kidnapping. Juveniles who violate probation would not be able to have their records sealed.

Charged as a juvenile

For minors accused of committing a crime, the consequences can be devastating, especially if the teen is charged as an adult.

Parents with minors in Alameda County accused of criminal behavior should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss legal options and the rights of the accused.