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Teen girls involved in Duluth-area muggings; already have criminal records

They're brazen and emboldened and act in concert with each other, but police aren't ready to call them a girl gang -- more like a group of teenage girls leading each other in the wrong direction.

A 55-year-old woman told Duluth police she was walking along the Lakewalk on Friday when a girl grabbed her fanny pack, punched her in the nose knocking her to the ground, while another girl joined in to repeatedly kick her before they and two other girls ran off.

Three of the four accused of mugging and robbing the woman are well-known to police because of their past behavior. Police said one of the girls was involved in attacking another woman during a robbery in the skywalk near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in April. In that incident, a woman also was punched and kicked to the ground.

A 17-year-old, two 16-year-olds and a 13-year-old were taken into custody Saturday and were being held at the Arrowhead Juvenile Center pending the filing of juvenile delinquency petitions.

Deputy St. Louis County Attorney Kenneth Udoibok, head of the county's Public Health and Human Services Division, said no decision has been made on whether his office will attempt to certify any of the girls for adult prosecution.

Lt. Scott Drewlo, supervisor of the Duluth Police Violent Crimes Unit, said he couldn't say violent crime by juvenile girls has escalated here, but this group of girls has captured police attention.

"This group seems to be really predatory," he said. "Not only is this particular group escalating their frequency [of crime], but they are becoming a little more brazen."

Police said two of the girls have admitted to their role in the Lakewalk incident and a third has partially admitted to being involved.

Jen Wright, senior supervisor of Arrowhead Regional Corrections, said the rash of crime by teenaged girls in Duluth is an anomaly. She said crime committed by girls is so low here that when the public hears of it "everybody reacts to the extreme cases that we have."

Wright declined to comment on the violent robberies allegedly committed by the group, but said she understands how juveniles get wrapped up in such behavior.

"It is very difficult to keep kids away from their anti-social friends," she said. "Often the kids hanging out with the anti-social youth have less social skills and less coping skills. So they are drawn to them. They need to feel a sense of belonging. It's easier to be 'cool' than it is to do the right thing sometimes when you don't have a lot of other tools in your tool box as a kid."

According to police, the mother of the 13-year-old girl allegedly involved in the two robberies was called to the police station while her daughter was being interviewed. Police said the mother said that she didn't have to be present for their questioning and to go ahead with it.

The 13-year-old was involved in a prior robbery, as well as a theft, trespassing and assaults, police said, and one 16-year-old has been involved several assaults, disturbances and theft. The other 16-year-old had limited contact with police until Friday's incident, police said, and the 17-year-old has been involved in assaultive behavior, trespassing, thefts and a controlled substance violation.

"They have lengthy criminal histories for being so young," Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said. "At least one of them was involved in that robbery in the skywalk and that takes a toll on the business community, and to those who use that skywalk it creates fear. Now we have another robbery on the Lakewalk, which causes fear among our citizens that use the Lakewalk. We're apprehending these individuals and it's disturbing to see them back out and reoffending."