[credit provider=”CNN Video” url=”http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/08/18/flashmobs.police/index.html”]
Thousands of American youth and young adults this summer have been using social media and cell phones to group up in criminally minded flash mobs.Earlier this week nearly 100 people swarmed into convenience stores in Maryland, shoplifting whatever they could carry while the clerk stood helplessly by.
Having connected mainly online one gang in a 7-11 took less than a minute to form and make off with several hundred dollars worth of stuff.
It’s a new form of crime that police, and law enforcement budgets, are not ready to address.
Montgomery county Md. police spokeswoman Janelle Smith told CNN, “We had always thought flash mobs happen in big cities. We are unprepared. We don’t have anyone who has social-media expertise. Even if we did, our budget looks like every other law enforcement agency in the country. It’s not pretty.”
Of 106 recently surveyed retailers across the country 80 per cent have been the victims of flash mobs, and police are responding in surprising ways.
Last week in San Francisco, transit police shut down cell phone service within stations to prevent a protest, just as dictators in the Middle East have been doing all summer.
In Philadelphia earlier this month, officials imposed city-wide curfews after gangs of teens attacked and robbed bystanders across the city.
This week in Kansas City as well, city leaders imposed a 9:30 curfew on all residents under 18 after a weekend shooting left three teens injured in an affluent shopping centre.
It seems no U.S. city is immune, and Cleveland’s mayor summed up the concerns of civil liberties groups when earlier this month he told USA Today: “Use of this technology in a criminal way and how we react to it — without throwing away the Constitution — is a challenge we all have — we want to be responsible.”