PLAISTOW — Police are investigating whether the assault of an off-duty police officer in Plaistow is connected with a string of carjackings in the Merrimack Valley overnight Wednesday.
The woman was assaulted by as many as five teens outside of the Plaistow YMCA on Plaistow Road (Route 125) around 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, Plaistow police Chief Doug Mullin confirmed Thursday.
The woman is a Manchester, New Hampshire, police officer who was off-duty, he said. It's unclear why she was at the YMCA Wednesday evening, Mullin said.
She was treated and released from a local hospital and is expected to survive the attack, he said.
Mullin said a variety of agencies, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire state police as well as Lawrence and Methuen police, are involved in the investigation, which he stressed is in the preliminary phase.
Search warrants were being executed and evidence collected on Thursday, he said.
"This is going to be a lengthy investigation," said Mullin, noting the suspects being eyed are juveniles possibly from Massachusetts.
The same group of teens involved in the assault may also be those involved in a crime spree of armed carjackings and carjacking attempts in numerous Merrimack Valley communities overnight, police said.
The incidents remain under investigation by police in Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover.
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, occurred in Lawrence on Lowell Street around 7:20 p.m., police said.
The pistol-whipping and carjacking of a pizza delivery driver in Methuen on Swan Street would follow at 9:20 p.m., 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 males, both age 15, were placed under arrest 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. Police say 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," said Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon, when reached Thursday morning.