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Police arrest 18 teens in Center City melee

Police arrested 18 juveniles for disorderly conduct this afternoon after a large group of teens became unruly in Center City, police said.

Store owners on the 1400 block of Chestnut Street called police about 4:15 p.m. after a large fight broke out near a CVS drug store, said Lt. Frank Vanore, police spokesman.

"The stores called us right away, and we moved in," Vanore said.

Police arrived on the scene minutes after receiving the call, and made the arrests as the mob of about 40 scattered.

"We believe they may have been en route to the Gallery but never made it," Vanore said.

One of the teens - who elbowed an arresting officer in the mouth, splitting his lip - was charged with assault on a police officer. No other injuries were reported.

Vanore said the teens also could be charged with riot.

"We're trying to charge them with the highest charges we can bring," he said.

Additional police patrols have been in place in Center City and at the Gallery for more than two weeks, since about 150 teenagers converged on the area and started a rampage that ended at City Hall. The fracas ended with 15 teenagers from eight city high schools facing charges and a 14-year-old boy taken to the hospital. Eight of the students were from Simon Gratz High in Nicetown.

In a similar incident in December, a horde of youths was turned away from the Gallery and they began rampaging through Center City. Some holiday shoppers were assaulted.

In May, more than 100 young people gathered along South Street, ransacked a convenience store, and attacked several taxis. A bicyclist was severely beaten, and a 21-year-old man was arrested.

Today, Vanore said the police department is in the process of permanently assigning more police officers to cover Center City. Those patrols could be in place by the end of the week, he said.