Oh, the days of social media. Social forums allow us to stay connected to our loved ones who might live across the country. They let us share our lives with the people we care about. They let us maintain friendships in a way that doesn’t make our already busy lives busier. Social media is a blessing, for the most part.
Recently, however, law enforcement in Maryland and throughout the country has found at least one reason why social media makes officials’ and store owners’ lives harder. Have you ever heard of a flash mob? It’s when people connect online to learn the same dance and then meet at a specific place and time to break out in a synchronized performance. Well, that trend has led to theft incidents that are being dubbed “flash robs,” and one took place in Maryland just last week.
According to CNN, a group of teenagers in Germantown, Maryland, all entered a store at the same time last Sunday, took items off of the 7-Eleven’s shelves and left with them. Within the course of a reported minute, the store lost hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise.
Confusion, shock and perhaps intimidation created by the group made it difficult for the store staff to try to stop the theft. It al l happened so quickly and quietly that the group was gone before the staff probably even knew what had hit the store.
This isn’t an isolated incident, and other cities are faced with the challenge of trying to combat a growing trend in these flash mobs. Other flash mobs haven’t been as quiet as the Maryland robbery. Mobs have come together to engage in violence against pedestrians, for example.
Law enforcement is taking the flash mobs seriously but also faces financial challenges in coming up with efforts to stop the criminal trend. One inexpensive and easy way that Maryland law enforcement has tried since last week’s theft is to get its officers involved with the various popular social media sites: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The surveillance video of the 7-Eleven robbery was posted on the sites, and local teens have already helped identify many of the suspects on the tape.
Officials are hoping, like most other trends, the trend of the criminal flash mobs will quickly fade. But social media has been around quite a while, proving itself to be more than just a trend. Do you think the flash mobs will soon stop, or will they continue as long as social networking is the popular, powerful tool that it is?
CNN: “Police scramble to fight flash-mob mayhem,” Ashley Fantz, Aug. 19, 2011
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