Criminal Justice

FBI to Monitor Social Media to Fight 'Flash Mobs' of Roving Teens

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Philadelphia authorities cracking down on “flash mobs” of violent, roving teens say the FBI will help them by monitoring social media networks used to recruit participants.

Flash mobs started out as performance art, the New York Times reports. People linked through social networking sites or text messages would heed calls to gather for impromptu pillow or snowball fights or for group disco routines.

But in Philadelphia, “these so-called flash mobs have taken a more aggressive and raucous turn,” the Times says, “as hundreds of teenagers have been converging downtown for a ritual that is part bullying, part running of the bulls: sprinting down the block, the teenagers sometimes pause to brawl with one another, assault pedestrians or vandalize property.”

As part of their crackdown, police are monitoring subways for unusual upticks in riders, enforcing curfew laws, bringing felony rather than misdemeanor charges, and holding parents responsible for their kids’ wrongdoing, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press.

In the last year, at least four flash mobs have broken out in Philadelphia. In the most recent one on Saturday night, as many as 2,000 teens jumped on cars and injured several bystanders.

In a Feb. 16 incident, about 150 teens “rampaged through Macy’s, knocking down customers and damaging displays,” the Times says. Twenty-eight teens arrested were found guilty of felony rioting this week, AP says.

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