Flash mobs, a spontaneous gathering of people for a fun event like dancing, has now becoming dark after several instances of criminal activities being associated with it.
Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are becoming a vehicle why the so-called flash mobs are being organized leaving police scrambling to keep tabs on the spontaneous assemblies.
When flash mobs started to get viral, it was just for fun. But now, people with bad intentions are using the event to practice their criminal activities.
“They’re gathering with an intent behind it – not just to enjoy the event,” Shaker Heights Police Chief D. Scott Lee said. “All too often, some of the intent is malicious.”
Flash mobs were introduced in 2003 as peaceful and often humorous acts of public performance, such as mass dance routines or street pillow fights. 9 years later, the term has taken a darker twist as criminals exploit the anonymity of crowds, using social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to coordinate crimes like robbery.
The term “flash mob robbery” was just derived this year after thefts are bedeviling both police and retailers, initiating flash mobs in malls as a way to shoplift without getting caught.
In recognition of the problem, the National Retail Federation issued a report last week recommending steps stores can take to ward off the robberies. It even came to the extent that a petition has been initiated to criminalize flash mobs.
The Cleveland City Council, for example, has passed a bill to make flash mobs illegal. They also want to prohibit the use of social media to organize a violent and disorderly flash mob. However, the mayor vetoed the measure after the ACLU of Ohio said that such move is unconstitutional.
“Retailers are raising red flags about criminal flash mobs, which are wreaking havoc on their business, causing concerns about the safety of their customers and employees, and directly impacting their bottom line,” the federation said in a report. They also advised retailers to monitor Facebook and Twitter and report planned heists to the police.
Upper Darby police officer Chitwood noticed that some perpetrators are underage.
“They’re 12 years old and not around the corner from their home. Where’s their parent?” He said.
“If they’re out doing flash mob thefts when they’re 12, what the hell are they going to be doing when they’re 16?,” he added.