Social Media Involved in Dangerous Trend

Not Your Typical Flash Mob

By Megan Trent

August 16, 2011 Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 7:56 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - You've heard of flash mobs, groups unexpectedly breaking into dance, but what about flash robs?

This dangerous new trend among teens has been tied to robberies in cities as close as Chicago, and social media sites are playing a key role.

It's a criminal twist on flash mobs. Flash robs primarily involve teenagers who use Facebook and Twitter to plan group robberies.

They set a time and place, and then a dozen or more people quickly force themselves into a store and take whatever they can carry.

Nothing seems to stop these brazen criminals - daylight, security cameras, or even store employees. Usually employees are far outnumbered and often risk physical harm if they stand up to the robbers.

It's happening in cities across the United States - Chicago, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and St. Paul, Minnesota. However, Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York says he doesn't believe Fort Wayne is at immediate risk. He says he expects the trend to remain concentrated in larger, urban, retail areas.

However, York says local law enforcement would be prepared to deal with the problem if flash robs ever made their way to Northeast Indiana.

York also says prevention and education are key in combating flash robs. "City government and law enforcement has really appealed to parents, because they are teenagers mostly. It's a difficult situation, and I think some education to the retail environments (is needed) as well."

That education could include looking for signs of a flash rob, such as large groups of people gathering nearby. This could give retailers a head start on alerting authorities.

The teens involved in the robberies are also posting videos of their escapades online. They organize online, boast online, and then sell the stolen goods online. That may end up being their downfall as more and more police departments turn to social media sites to look for suspects.

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