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Should recent Baltimore theft be classified as violent crime?

Controversy consistently brews within Baltimore regarding crime in the city and how officials represent the trend of crime in the city. A recent incident at a local 7-Eleven has prompted debate regarding the classification of a theft involving various youths.

According to police reports, a large group of youths entered a Baltimore 7-Eleven when some of the kids were caught by the employee and the store's camera stealing candy from the shelves. Those kids got out of the store with the candy. When other kids in the store attempted to get out of the store, the clerk tried to block them. They got angry and reportedly struck the worker in order to get out of the shop.

How has law enforcement initially classified the incident? There are essentially two reports, one related to the kids with the candy and one related to the kids who struck the employee to leave the store. The taking of the candy has resulted in a theft classification, whereas the other incident has led to the classification of assault.

Some criticize the initial classifications of the Baltimore incident, arguing that the reports make the crimes seem less serious than they really were. They argue that there was a combination of theft and violence; therefore, the incident should have been classified as a robbery, a violent crime.

Those who question the initial reports of the 7-Eleven incident suggest that officials want to play down the severity of Baltimore incidents in order to pretend that violence and specifically violence among youth is not as prevalent as it is. It is still early in the investigation into the May 23 incident, and state prosecutors could decide to pursue more serious charges if evidence supports that action.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "7-Eleven flash mob -- petty larceny or more serious robbery?" Peter Hermann, May 24, 2012

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