July 10, 2007
Investigators are trying to find the source of several random attacks in downtown Charlottesville and now they may have a place to start.
The Herman Key Jr. gymnasium and downtown rec center is where local teens gather to work out and play basketball but it’s also become a place of interest in connection to this series of violent crimes.
“We have seen some on Friday nights when this rec center lets out as with this past Friday night that we had some assaults. Whether they were actually in there playing basketball or hanging out that side we are not sure,” said Charlottesville Police Lt. Gary Pleasants.
Since May 11th there have been five random attacks on people. And when you look at where the attacks took place and the timing there seems to be a general pattern. All the unprovoked attacks have taken place on East Market Street, Water Street, Avon Street and Garrett Street - all within walking distance from the downtown rec center. And all have occurred between 10pm and 1am.
Police have not been able to directly connect anyone who was inside the rec center with the violence but say when the doors to the gym close after dark the teens spill out onto the downtown area.
“When you have so many of these kids coming out at one time we can't keep our eyes on them,” said Pleasants.
“At 11 or midnight on a Friday and Saturday night you'll see randomly a groups of juveniles strolling down the mall in groups of 15 or 20,” observed Rob Bedford, manager of the downtown restaurant and club Rapture.
Bedford said he hasn't seen any violence around his club but he is concerned for his employees’ safety. “We have a lot of female staff who are not leaving until 2am and we make an effort to walk them out to cars,” he said.
Bedford speculates why these attacks may be taking place near the mall.
“You got to take into consideration the location of the downtown mall in relation to adjacent neighborhoods,” said Bedford.
The manager of rapture says he's in favor of enforcing a 1am city curfew for teens but police say although they have considered it, it may not deter these crimes because many of these assaults happened before 1am.