Five youths, including one committed on a homicide charge, apparently dug under two chain-link fences last night to escape from Oak Hill, a District of Columbia youth detention center near Laurel, authorities reported.

Before digging out, the escapees, all believed under the age of 18, fled from a locked cottage where they were housed, said Patricia L. Quann, head of the city's Youth Services Administration.

Oak Hill, located near Fort Meade and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is a detention center for older youths and young adults and has a population of about 150. It houses both inmates committed by the juvenile court and those awaiting trial.

About 2 1/2 years ago, 13 youths fled from Oak Hill in what was believed the largest escape ever from the facility. A year before that nine youths escaped by prying open a fence with wirecutters.

Quann said it has been at least a year since a group as large as last night's fled from the center, which is under the city's Department of Human Services.

The escapees are usually recaptured within a short time, she said.

Quann said that one of the youths who escaped last night had been committed on a homicide charge, but the specific offenses on which the others had been committed could not be learned.

Quann said it was not immediately known early today how the youths who fled last night made their way out of their cottage. Two staff members would normally have been on duty inside with about 20 youths, Quann said.

No injuries were reported in the breakout, which occurred some time before 10 p.m., but the exact time was not known. "They just slipped away," Quann said.

Although the compound is surrounded by two fences, each about 10 feet high, with concertina wire at their tops and bottoms, youths have escaped in the past by digging underneath, Quann said. She said authorities have been trying to replace the dirt beneath the fences with cement. 5 Youths Flee Oak Hill, D.C.'s Detention Center Group Includes 1 Committed for Homicide By Martin Weil and Charles Fishman Washington Post Staff Writers

Five youths, including one committed on a homicide charge, apparently dug under two chain-link fences last night to escape from Oak Hill, a District of Columbia youth detention center near Laurel, authorities reported.

Before digging out, the escapees, all believed under the age of 18, fled from a locked cottage where they were housed, said Patricia L. Quann, head of the city's Youth Services Administration.

Oak Hill, located near Fort Meade and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is a detention center for older youths and young adults and has a population of about 150. It houses both inmates committed by the juvenile court and those awaiting trial.

About 2 1/2 years ago, 13 youths fled from Oak Hill in what was believed the largest escape ever from the facility. A year before that nine youths escaped by prying open a fence with wirecutters.

Quann said it has been at least a year since a group as large as last night's fled from the center, which is under the city's Department of Human Services.

The escapees are usually recaptured within a short time, she said.

Quann said that one of the youths who escaped last night had been committed on a homicide charge, but the specific offenses on which the others had been committed could not be learned.

Quann said it was not immediately known early today how the youths who fled last night made their way out of their cottage. Two staff members would normally have been on duty inside with about 20 youths, Quann said.

No injuries were reported in the breakout, which occurred some time before 10 p.m., but the exact time was not known. "They just slipped away," Quann said.

Although the compound is surrounded by two fences, each about 10 feet high, with concertina wire at their tops and bottoms, youths have escaped in the past by digging underneath, Quann said. She said authorities have been trying to replace the dirt beneath the fences with cement.