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Breakout at Nashville juvenile detention centre: 32 teens slip under fence; 9 still at large

Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention centre by crawling under a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and nine were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.

The teens — ages 14 to 19 — left their rooms at about 11 p.m. Monday night and "overwhelmed" the staff in a common area, Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman Rob Johnson said. "Staffing was lighter during the overnight hours, so presumably they had planned for that."

The group then kicked out a metal panel under a window to get into a yard, and ran for a chain-link fence. The fence is buried 8 inches (20 centimetres) deep into the ground, but the teens managed to pull up a weak portion and slip out underneath it. Staff alerted police once they saw them escaping, he said.

Two were captured immediately and others were found overnight. Some were found by authorities, others turned themselves in, and still others were turned in by their families, he said.

None of the 16 to 18 staff members on duty were hurt, officials said. Police were still searching for nine of the teens on Tuesday, while the other 23 were taken to juvenile court and could face escape charges, officials said.

Most of the 78 detainees had committed at least three felonies, Johnson said, but the facility is more like a high school with security than an adult prison. There are no guard towers or barbed wire.

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Associated Press writer Travis Loller contributed to this report.

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