A group of teens is suspected in a crime spree of armed carjackings and carjacking attempts in several Merrimack Valley communities last week, police said.
The incidents, which happened overnight last Wednesday into Thursday morning, remain under investigation by police in Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover. Other communities may also have been targeted, according to police.
The teens involved, some of whom have been arrested, are all believed to be under age 18 and considered juveniles in the criminal justice system, police said. Those charged have not been publicly identified by police because they are juveniles.
The first incident, an attempted carjacking, happened in Lawrence on Lowell Street around 7:20 p.m. last Wednesday, police said. The pistol-whipping and carjacking of a pizza delivery driver in Methuen on Swan Street would follow at 9:20 that night, according to police.
Then, shortly after 11 p.m., a man in an Edgelawn Avenue apartment complex in North Andover was surrounded by a group of teens who demanded his keys and took his Toyota sedan, police said.
The North Andover victim was not hurt and police there "are actively working with surrounding departments that have had similar incidents," said police Sgt. Sean Daley.
In Lawrence, police Chief Roy Vasque said two boys, both 15, were arrested after related incidents overnight.
In Methuen, the pizza delivery driver was ordered out of his car by a group of teens, including one armed with a "chrome colored pistol," according to Methuen police Capt. Kristopher McCarthy.
The driver, who was pistol-whipped, was robbed of his cellphone, money and Honda Accord, McCarthy said.
Methuen officers soon spotted the Honda Accord on the other side of the city and pursued the vehicle. They ended up chasing the driver into Lawrence, where he crashed the sedan in the 500 block of Haverhill Street, McCarthy said.
One teen was captured and placed under arrest for theft of a motor vehicle and numerous motor vehicle charges, he said.
Local police have grappled recently with an uptick of gun violence involving juveniles. Officers said previously they believed juvenile gang members were carrying weapons because they face less serious charges in the juvenile justice system.
"I just think the gang violence is exploding," Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon said after last week's series of incidents.