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The three teenagers in hooded black outfits were scampering over rooftops, climbing trees "just like a squirrel," and breaking into houses and cars, police said.
But they weren't quite so slick as their Japanese ninja heroes.
Earlier this summer, an officer chased one of the wannabes across a school rooftop, but the youth leaped into a nearby tree, said Police Chief Ken Lewis.
Breaking branches on the way down, "he gave a yelp of pain," and then he scrambled away, Lewis said.
Last week, after months of investigation, police arrested three teens, two 15 and one 16, and seized stolen jewelry, burglary tools, a map of the city and several black ninja suits with hoods and climbing spikes.
The parents of one told police their son complained of an injury about the time of the rooftop chase, Lewis said.
"I believe that's our roof-gliding ninja," said Lewis.
Lewis said one of the three indicated they had been active for a year and a half, and the pranks escalated from flights across rooftops and petty vandalism.
Lewis said the teenagers used a stolen credit card to buy, online, costumes and equipment such as hand-climbing spikes, metal throwing stars and utility belts.
Police got their first clue to the activity seven months ago, Lewis said, when an anonymous caller referred to the ancient Japanese martial arts masters trained for covert operations and assassinations.
"He wanted to know if it was OK for his kid to dress up in a ninja costume and run around in the middle of the night and climb on top of roofs," said Lewis. "We told him that would be both dangerous and illegal. We never heard from him again."
The teens created a MySpace page, and other teens have been blogging on it about the arrests, which may lead to other suspects, Lewis said.
"It's true what they say about MySpace," said Lewis. "It's a great investigative tool."
Police say three teens busted for nocturnal ninja crimes
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