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Rise in group theft prompts legislative idea in Maryland

We recently published a post about a "flash rob" that took place in a convenience store. The Maryland theft case made national headlines due to the unique, group nature of the crime. Until recently, flash mobs were known to be arranged group dances that occurred in public places.

The recent group robbery of the convenience store involved a reported 25 suspects, some young. Of the group, sources report that 17 have been identified and charged with theft. At least one Maryland lawmaker, however, doesn't think that the suspects are facing harsh enough charges.

According to recent reports, a Montgomery County councilman is working on a proposal with other lawmakers that would make it easier to more harshly charge individuals who participate in a group crime. For example, if one theft suspect individually stole $200 worth of property, he or she wouldn't be held responsible for only that. If the group as a whole stole $1,000 worth of property, each individual would be charged with a theft of the total amount of $1,000.

The value a person is charged with stealing affects whether the theft charge is classified as a misdemeanor or felony crime. Lawmakers' proposal asks the legal system to make clear laws that tell individuals that they will be charged more severely if they participate in group thefts. A person could steal a mere bag of Doritos, but if the group they worked with stole all of the money out of a store's cash register, that bag of chips could wind up costing them a lot more in the end.

What do you think about this proposal? Does it sound like a fair way to treat individual suspects, or is it an unfair, overreaction to the recent 7-Eleven "flash rob?"

Source "Lawmaker seeks harsher penalties for group thefts," Erin Cunningham, Aug. 30, 2011

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