NEWS- Rampage: Home invasion adds to attack fears

Police Chief Tim Longo says police have deployed a lot of energy to stop the random attacks– and to calm a nervous populace.

At the splashy "Artini" party in the Frank Ix building July 20, signs advised partygoers that security was available to see them to their cars. The safe-walk-home effort was in response to a series of random attacks on pedestrians in the downtown area by white t-shirted teens, a number that edged up from at least eight to 11 following three weekend assaults on West Main Street.

And a July 19 home invasion on Park Street has further set the city on edge.

Early July 21, two different couples were attacked within minutes. A man and woman had just come out of a restaurant at 2:45am and were sitting in a car near West Main restaurant. Four to six boys in white t-shirts approached the couple.

"One asks the girl to use her cellphone," says Police Chief Tim Longo. "She doesn't have one. The kid jumps on the trunk of her car. She gets out to confront him– "and was then struck.

Minutes later, another man and woman were walking near the Drewary Brown Bridge on West Main when they passed a group of white t-shirt-clad teens, one of whom asked what time it was. 

"As they walk by, they strike the man from behind," says Longo. "None of these folks was seriously injured."

The next night, in the early morning hours of July 22, a man leaving Starr Hill restaurant was asked the time by two males he estimated to be between 15 and 16 years old. The man was struck with a fist in the back of his head and in the jaw, and the assailants fled behind Starr Hill toward Hardy Drive.

The victim describes both boys as around 5'10" tall. One was thin and wearing a white t-shirt, the other had a stocky build and was wearing a blue-checked shirt and wire rimmed glasses, Longo says.

He believes the two July 21 attacks are related "because of the time and close proximity," but he adds, "I'm not sure the third one is."

Longo doesn't rule out the possibility that these attacks and the previous eight could be related. "I believe we're dealing with multiple groups," says Longo. "It could be some of the same individuals. It could be two or three groups trying to one-up each other."

Since two pedestrian attacks on July 6, police have formed a task force to investigate the rash of assaults with a common denominator: strangers beaten by groups of young black males in white t-shirts.

   "We're dealing with a situation in which the victims are not able to identify the attackers," says Longo. After school resource officers were added to the investigation, "I think we may have a fairly good idea," says Longo. "We've talked to kids and the parents who may be involved."

Police have also stepped up their presence downtown, as well as deploying plainclothes officers, says the chief.

Particularly frustrating to Longo: "12- to 13-year-old kids are out on the street at 2 or 3am without being accountable." Charlottesville has a curfew for children under 17 who are supposed to be off the streets at midnight on week nights and 1am on weekends. Before police can charge street-roaming teens, they have to issue a warning.

"We have increased curfew warnings," says Longo. Police are also drafting letters to remind business owners who admit underage kids to hip-hop events of the curfew.

Two weeks ago, police were adamant that there was no evidence the assaults are gang-related. 

"I don't know that for sure," Longo now concedes. "There's a lot of speculation, and to say we're not exploring that angle would be inaccurate."

In the wake of the attacks, police hosted a meeting with nervous citizens July 18. 

The Downtown Business Association is clamoring for surveillance cameras on the Downtown Mall– although none of the attacks have taken place on the Mall proper– while blaming the media for portraying downtown as unsafe.

  In the midst of this unease, a home invasion on tony Park Street July 19 has sent further ripples of fear throughout the city. The street is popular with lawyers, both as a place to work and to live– even beyond the bridge over the Route 250 Bypass. The invasion happened in the 1100 block of Park. 

"A professional couple was in their house, and they hear a noise on the porch," says Longo. The husband went out to investigate and found two males– one black, one white, in their twenties. The homeowner was struck in the head and taken back in the house, and he and his wife were bound.

The burglars roamed through the house before leaving with about $500 worth of property, including bank cards. Police retrieved poor-quality images from the ATMs the invaders used, but probably will release the images anyway.

"Why target this house?" wonders Longo. "There's nothing remarkable about it or the people in it. Typically in home invasions, there's a specific target." 

In burglaries, explains Longo, the thieves don't want to meet the homeowners. "In home invasions, you're going to have an encounter," he says.

Police are looking at relationships that may link the invaders with the residents, but they don't rule out a random attack.

 "My hope is this is an isolated event and unconnected to the assaults downtown," says a neighbor, who requests anonymity. "People don't normally break into houses that are occupied. I feel this is an isolated event."

The neighbor acknowledges that people find the incident "unsettling," but maintains that the neighborhood is safe. "I'm not going to put in an alarm system," he says.

Longo, too, maintains that statistically the city is safe. "We've had this spate of attacks," he says. "They've received a tremendous amount of hype and publicity."

Acknowledging the rising perception that downtown is dangerous, he says, "We have to react to it."



It's time the City enacts a sensible, enforceable and meaningful curfew ordinance that gets rid of ridiculous warnings and parental permissions. The curfew law here is taken as a joke by everyone concerned. Will this prevent street attacks? No, however,if enforced over a period of time, it will free up the few police officers assigned to the night shift to concentrate on crimes that typically occur at night and not deal with a lot of baby sitting.

Your article is missing Chief Longo's previous appeals for citizen helpers to rat out their miscreant offspring. Perhaps Coran Capshaw can give these thugs jobs that tire them durinmg the days... so they're don't just sleep all day and prowl the dark alleyways at night. These thugs will know where the cameras are because you will tell them just like you told them that the attacked lawyer's neighbor doesn't have an alarm system. When will we stop advising our enemies as to how we are most vulnerable and how to hurt us. "None of these folks was seriously injured." INDEED! what an obsurd, unfeeling, insensitive comment on the victims! The fear level during and after was overwhelming! A sick lust for violence has drugged these devil worshipping thugs.

We live here in Orlando, Fl, and plan on moving to the Charlottesville area within the next 3-4 years. Why? Perhaps you've heard how this area has become INCREDIBLY VIOLENT! Why? The same reasons that are now cropping up there in Charlottesville have been brewing here for years. The powers to be turned a blind eye towards it for such a long time and instead concentrated on things such as money for a new arena, performing arts center, and renovated football stadium. All of these venues are located downtown, all within an area that has seen an incredible increase in crime. Last year, over 50 homicides...50! Orange County had well over 100. 100 homicides. Over 150 homicides in the Orlando area in 2006. Think it can't happen there? People thought the same here. We already have 25 homicides this year and the county is approaching 50. Add to this misery are the home invasions, robberies, both to people and businesses, rapes, batteries, you name it. People are afraid to go to the movies after 9-10 o'clock at night, or go to the store to get a gallon of milk. I witnessed one woman running from a public transportation bus to her apartment as if her hair was on fire. She was running out of FEAR, fear that she would become a victim. Is this any way to live? It was only 9:30 at night. Imagine her state of mind; once I get off the bus, I have to run as quickly as possible to my home before I am shot, raped, or murdered. Perhaps she was feeling that way because it happened not too long ago to another woman. She exited her bus and as she was walking home, two thugs beat her, shot her dead, robbed her of her credit cards, and puchased soda and potato chips at a gas station with her credit card. Nice, huh? I am a police officer here, have been for over 16 years. I have seen this city change, change only for the worse. I want out of this area so bad I could taste it. There are times I feel like quitting this job all together and getting my family out of here, pension or no pension, job or no job. I fear for my family's safety when I am not around. I ask my wife not to go out to the store after 7 o'clock at night because the threat of carjackings is very, very real. People are robbed while at a Blockbuster video 10 o'clock at night, forced to the floor by a gang of thugs wearing bandannas over their faces, shoving guns to helpless victims' heads. 3-4 thugs walked into the Men's Warehouse here within the last week, 4 o'clock in the afternoon, armed with handguns and shotguns and robbed the business and the patrons there. 4 in the afternoon!!! Think they have any fear whatsoever of law enforcement? What do you think? Their actions speak for themselves. Think I'm joking? Pull up any local news website and scoll through their crime logs if you don't believe me. Tell you what. Go to Orlando and pull up the crime log and read through it; it's an eye opener. I tell this to you all because if what is going on up there in your area is not dealt with aggressively, it will progress and get worse. Leaders here in the past have said, "there is no gang problem" when discussing these events; BULLCRAP. Gang or no gang problem, if they're thugs, they're thugs; deal with them. No matter if they're black, white, hispanic, you better get a grip on it before it is out of control. Better hold your local leaders responsible or elect those that will take responsibility for their city. If your police chief denies the problem, or doesn't do enough, demand his resignation and have your mayor find one who will take hold of this blossoming problem and nip it in the bud. If he doesn't allow his police officers to do their jobs as they are trained and SWORN to, fire him. If he doesn't give his police officers support when the going gets rough, dump him and find one who will. Your failure to act and get involved will result in problems such as the ones we are living with here.

Charlottesville-Albemarle is not nearly as safe as people claim that it is - even statistically is has above average crime rates. The notion of safety in a small town is one of its big appeals, and the City, county, and both police departments better start doing their jobs and deal with the crime, rather than rely on a false sense of security. The Rotunda does not protect us.

At least I feel safe in my car LOL in the few rare instances you could actually break the speed limit in this oh so putzy-driving town without a soccer mom in your way, there's Johnny Law on a motorcycle ready to revenue your ass.

And I sure feel safer now that dude with the expired plates is pulled over, whew that was close, better get a guy with a gun to write him a ticket.

I have been expecting and am really surprised that we have had no reports of some mysterious Charlie Bronson-type vigilante leaving the bullet-riddled corpses of punks with bloody white t-shirts in the many alleyway and byways connecting Downtown to the less savory neighborhoods that rim the area.

I suspect that these teens fail to comprehend that while they may fancy themselves to be predators, they are actually setting themselves up as easy targets for a pedestrain packing a concealed weapon. Imagine their surprise when they accost some unsuspecting citizen and take a swing at him, only to catch a .38 slug between the eyes.

Now, no one, least of all me, is advocating vigilante justice. But hypothetically speaking, you wanna bet this bullshit would cease & desist mighty quickly if a couple of these thugs got capped and given a ticket to the long adios?

How very sad to see the simultaneous growth and decline of what was once a lovely place to live.

Wasn't too long ago I suspected an attack or home invasion was taking place at my residence in the city, after having had a violent home invasion in my neighborhood several years ago. Come to find out it was 3 cops sneaking around my home like Rambo, Rambo Jr and Columbo. (??? or maybe 2 coppies, the police chief refused to identify the third person with the 2 uniformed cops). They had parked their police cars out of site and knocked on my door at 10:30 p.m. in the dead middle of winter after dark. WTF? Park your car out front, knock on the door, and people won't hesitate to open their front door after dark when they see a cop car.

Anyhow, one of my dogs was alerting on their constant movement around my home and property. When I finally got dressed and went outside to see who was invading my property.... what if I had taken a handgun, shotgun or rifle out with me? I would probably be dead right now. Because all I saw was the appearance of "three thugs" in dark clothing walking around my house. Maybe my death is what the detective orchestrating this visit to my home wanted? This detective being the same person who led his own department on a high speed pursuit while off duty one night and wrecked his car during this pursuit. Anybody else would have been fired on the spot. But not this guy.....

Well, moving on, good work, Longo! People aren't even safe from the police any longer! And you made it clear to me (IMHO) that you simply didn't give a damn what took place this night with your officers, Sherlock! You would certainly have been standing in line to charge me with murder if one of your officers had been shot while slipping around my home in dark clothing after dark so late at night. The entire police department has gone to hell in a handbasket if you want my opinion. And I can back it up with command staff who have told me the same thing in person.

In closing, since I talk way too much, I certainly hope nobody comes to expect any relief from the rampant crime developing in Charlottesville. The wannabe thugs now own this city after dark.