Detectives investigating armed robberies and carjackings last year kept coming back to the same rowhouse in West Baltimore.

Now, after months of compiling evidence, police reported, they have connected 20 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 to more than 113 cases involving 50 incidents that had a connection to the Sandtown-Winchester home.

“This was like a clubhouse, a headquarters for young folks doing carjackings and robberies,” Mayor Brandon Scott told The Baltimore Banner on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, Scott and State’s Attorney Ivan Bates held separate news conferences to discuss the investigation. Law enforcement revealed few specifics about the cases, stating that they were constrained because of privacy laws.

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At one point, Bates implied that Scott had put the cases in jeopardy by revealing too much.

Meanwhile, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender leveled allegations that the police and state’s attorney had intentionally dragged out charging the cases, creating “unnecessary victims” and “squandering precious time for interventions with these children.”

“BPD and SAO’s failure to ‘close this clubhouse’ for many months or make any effort to confront the homeowner or adult managing the home is outrageous, especially since law enforcement knew of the distress signals,” said Marguerite Lanaux, district public defender for Baltimore, in a statement.

A spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office called the remarks “disingenuous,” and said the public defender was “not being sincere in seeking support for children who are committing these crimes, and this dialogue does nothing to stop the revolving door that allows these young people to continue victimizing the residents of Baltimore.”

The announcement came as juvenile justice legislation is in the final stages in the Maryland General Assembly. Gov. Wes Moore has said he will sign a juvenile justice bill that includes accountability for youth offenders and for the adults running the system; lawmakers are reconciling minor differences in each chambers’ version before final passage.

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At his news conference, Bates said the 15-week investigation began in mid to late October. Bates said he and his office received a number of complaints about the number of carjacking taking place in the city, including from Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore. His Juvenile Division and Major Investigations Unit, Bates said, worked in partnership with a special police task force.

In an interview, Police Commissioner Richard Worley said a few children lived at the home and their friends would come over. Worley did not give the location of the home, but the location was disclosed by sources last year.

“They would tell friends, and they would tell friends,” Worley said. “Every time we had stuff in that area, we’d look at that house. Detectives did a great job of tracking all the data and video and everything back to this location, and to these suspects.”

Scott and Worley said the cases date to late summer, and that police picked up on the pattern in the fall and began filing charges. They’ve since been working on developing additional evidence, leading to new charges.

“We kept tracking them. We were making arrests,” Scott said. “They’d get back out and do it again.”

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One of the youths has been linked to 22 cases, Scott said. Another has been tied to 20; another 17. Worley said the crimes spanned seven police districts.

“The BPD is out here doing this work each and every day — to make sure that they’re doing their part and we’re doing our part to tackle these issues just the way we’re doing with homicides and shootings. This speaks highly to their focus,” Scott said.

Scott reiterated a message he conveyed Monday night, after a teen was fatally shot near the Inner Harbor: “To the young people in the city and young Black men in particular: There is a better way.”

“If you continue down that path that we see unfortunately some young people do, this will end up being you,” he said. “You will have to face the consequences for those actions. This is not a video game. This is real life.”

Following the meeting of the city’s spending board, Scott spoke to reporters about the takedown less than two hours before Bates had scheduled his own news conference to discuss the investigation.

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Scott was listed on the media advisory for the news conference. But he said he would not be at the announcement and wanted people to directly hear from him.

Bates said he intends to charge parents whose children commit crimes, as well as seek restitution for victims.

“This message is for parents and guardian in Baltimore City. And I want you to listen closely, because I’m talking to you,” he said. “If you don’t remember anything else about this press conference, just remember two words: parental accountability.”

Bates told reporters that they might have seen some of the allegations in “other material.” Without referring to the mayor by name, Bates added, “Anything you may have heard from someone else; you need to talk to that person. But we have to maintain the integrity of the cases so we can prosecute.”

When asked where the mayor was that afternoon, Bates replied, “I don’t know. But we do have a representative from his office who has been a partner in this whole process.” Bates turned back to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Anthony Barksdale.

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Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello said the crimes “completely terrorized not just the victims of these crimes, but entire neighborhoods across our entire city.”

“What occurred here is unacceptable, and I’m very grateful, and I know the communities that I represent are very grateful to the state’s attorney for his leadership,” Costello said.

Costello said, “Any insinuation by anyone earlier today that this is somehow the credit of one party or the other is false.” He previously endorsed one of Scott’s opponents in the Democratic primary, former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Juvenile justice has been a key issue in the legislature this session, with lawmakers facing public outrage over mounting car thefts and a number of high-profile gun crimes in which teens were both suspects and victims.

Bills advancing in the legislature would broaden juvenile system oversight and data collection; expand the offenses for which children age 10 to 12 years old can charged; give prosecutors added decision-making power; and mandate services for children who steal cars. Advocates, though, worry the changes will do more harm than good — and will turn back progress won in previous legislative sessions.

This article has been updated to reflect the correct number of incidents authorities say they have tied to the group.

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