Rogue River teen 'ninjas' face criminal charges

ROGUE RIVER — Three self-proclaimed teenage "ninjas" face burglary, theft and vandalism charges after investigators linked them to a spate of break-ins at homes and cars around town.

Rogue River police lodged two 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy, all of Rogue River, at the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center Tuesday night on multiple charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree theft, first-degree criminal mischief and unauthorized entry into a vehicle.

Police also seized several thousand dollars worth of jewelry stolen in two house burglaries last weekend, burglary tools, a map of the city and several black "ninja" suits including black hoods, black pants, coats and "climbing spikes," Rogue River Police Chief Ken Lewis said.

Lewis said police became aware of the group early this year when a dad from Grants Pass called to say his son had friends who dressed in black costumes and snuck through the night, climbing on things. The father asked if this was acceptable and Lewis told him it wasn't safe and could be illegal because of trespassing and curfew violations.

Around graduation, Rogue River High School security reported a black-clad figure throwing things off the roof. When an officer arrived the person in the ninja costume ran and leapt off the school roof into a tree and fled, Lewis reported.

In the past month, vandalism with a ninja theme, such as spelling "Ninja" across a lawn with bleach increased, Lewis said. In the past two weeks, six car break-ins and three burglaries to houses where people weren't home were reported. At one house last weekend, the burglars dumped paint and walked through it to leave distinctive split-toed footprints from ninja boots, then left with about $5,000 of jewelry.

"I think they watched too many Jackie Chan movies and got caught up in the fantasy," Lewis said.

He said investigators now believe the ninja group had been loosely organized for more than a year and recently graduated from skulking across rooftops and ghosting through people's yards at night to vandalism and serious crime.

Police are still seeking teens who might be involved and other items reported stolen in recent burglaries. However, Lewis also noted that some teens are involved in ninja-style activities for the stunts and don't appear to be involved in crime.

Police ask anyone with information involving these incidents or crimes to contact the Rogue River Police Department at 582-4931.

— Anita Burke

Rogue River police say this MySpace page belongs to the teens who organized a nina group in Rogue River.

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