FlashRobbing – Flashmobs take a dangerous turn using Social Media

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Business and Personal Safety



Two decades ago it was called “wilding.” Gangs of thugs with a violent pack mentality preying on individuals and businesses with swift violence and quickly disbanding.

Today it’s called “FlashRobbing.”

The difference? Coordination using Social Media – something that did not exist in 1989.

Recent incidents in Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington, DC and other cities bring this to the forefront; like “flash mobs,” flash robs involve a large group of people suddenly appearing – except their intent is to steal, not to dance or sing.

They may be organized using social media such as Twitter or via text messaging. In 2010, police in New York’s Times Square tracked this Twitter message related to the escalated mob violence there:

Two-weeks ago, a flash rob targeted a store in Las Vegas; in February, a store in St. Paul, MN, was targeted. In the Las Vegas incident, a group of 35 thieves swarmed to steal $600 of merchandise in minutes, plus the clerk’s cell phone. In St. Paul, more than 55 thieves poured into a store to steal merchandise.

These crimes aren’t limited to convenience stores. A flash rob struck a clothing store in Washington, DC, recently as well.

Chicago’s Acting Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy has been warning about this phenomenon for the past year.

Chicago’s Alderman (42nd) Brendan Reilly described it as a “new brand of retail theft” that’s highly coordinated by adult criminals who recruit juveniles to do their dirty work.

“You have large groups of kids — 15, 20 at a time — running into a store all at once. They mull around for a few minutes, find the items on their lists and, when a code word is yelled or texted to them, they head for different exits, knowing retail security can’t catch everybody,” Reilly said.

St. Paul, MN Police Department spokesperson Andy Skoogman told KARE-TV:

“The inclination might be to try to stop it. We don’t want people to do that. We want store employees to be witnesses to shoplifting, not victims of assault,”

Incidents were captured on surveillance video:

Tips for staying safe during a mob robbery


  • If you see a swarm of kids coming into a store, leave as quickly as possible. Don’t wait to see what’s going on. More than five teenagers swarming into a store is trouble. Drop the items you came in to buy and leave.
  • Use a basket for items you plan to purchase if baskets are available. They may be used to block punches or knife assault.
  • Leave your wallet/purse/bag/backpack in the car under the car seat or in your trunk and take only your money (and ID if needed) into a store.
  • If you’re in the back of the store, or can’t get out of the door, head for the restroom, storage room or wherever there is a room and lock or blockade the door. If there is no lock on the bathroom door lock yourself in a stall and stand on the toilet so you can’t be seen.
  • Call 911; know your location, be aware of your surroundings, know where you are. If you’re out of town, know at least what street you’re on, what intersection you might be close to.  Attempts to take photos of the mob with your cell phone can result in your becoming a target. Don’t play a hero.
  • If you see weapons being flashed by robbers or store clerks, get behind something solid, or flee to the back of the store and lie on the ground. Even if you have to climb into the refrigerated section (push hard and most shelves will roll back allowing you to go into the refrigerated section) put as much between you and the guns as possible.
  • Cooperate with the robber for your own safety and the safety of others. Comply with a robber’s demands. Remain calm and think clearly. Make mental notes of the robber’s physical description and other observations important to law enforcement officers.
  • Don’t chase or follow the robbers; leave the job of catching the robber to the police.
  • If unable to exit, make no sudden moves and keep your hands visible.


Chicago Sun-Times

FoxNews YouTube

The Chicago Architecture Blog – Wilding in the Gold Coast

FoxNews – Teenage Flash Mob Robberies on the Rise

KARE11: Mob Robbers hit Convenience Store in St. Paul

MyFoxDC: Flash Robberies not a Rare Occurrence in DC


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