Teens busted for GTA copycat crimes

Kids tell police that they were imitating hit Rockstar game during spree of assault, robbery, and vandalism.

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SIDEBAR: The Grand Theft Auto franchise has never had an easy time of it in the press. Given that the title is in itself a felony, it's not surprising that some parents and politicians would assume it to be a negative influence on kids.

Those who share that point of view can point to an incident in New York this week, as Newsday is reporting that police have arrested six teens for going on a crime spree that they admitted was imitating acts seen in Rockstar's GTA series. Through Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, the kids mugged and severely beat a man, attempted a carjacking, and vandalized a vehicle before being arrested by Garden City police, authorities said. A bat, a crowbar, and a broomstick were confiscated from the teens upon their arrest.

The teens spanned ages between 14 and 17. Two of them had prior records, one for burglary and larceny, the other for drug possession. All six suspects were charged as adults; five of them face a felony robbery rap, while the sixth was charged with misdemeanor criminal possession of stolen property.

"They decide that they're going to go do some street robberies, emulating the popular fictional character Niko Bellic," Nassau County detective lieutenant Raymond Cote told Newsday. In the first incident of the night, the mugging, Cote said the teens "approach him from behind, force him to the ground, start punching him, kicking him, knocking the teeth out of his head and take what he has on him."

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