TAMPA – Social media like Facebook and Twitter are making it easier than ever for kids to congregate and even create flash mobs for fun. But recently in big cities around the country, the intent of these flash mobs is not social or entertainment, but rather criminal.
It’s called a “flash rob,” and it’s happened in places like Las Vegas, Chicago, Washington D.C., and just outside Philadelphia, where kids flooded a Sears store and made off with merchandise.
In this case, the crime was apparently organized and planned on Facebook with kids as young as 11 taking part.
Police in the Bay Area are well aware of this alarming trend. What concerns Tampa Police Detective Mike Rivera the most is the possibility of escalation.
“That’s a dangerous concept,” Rivera said after reviewing the surveillance video posted online. “It really borders on a mini-riot.”
Rivera is part of the Bay Area’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, which brings together law enforcement to share information to combat crime.
“We haven’t seen this kind of thing here yet, but to say we are immune to it would be a mistake. We are aware of what’s happening and have student resource officers saturating the malls,” he explained.
More than a dozen people have been arrested for robbing the Sears store near Philadelphia. Detective Rivera hopes as more people are caught, it will stop the dangerous behavior before it spreads and one day catches on in Tampa.