Flash Rob

Internet meme is all fun and games until someone uses it to rob a convenience store. Here's what happened when the criminally-inclined use social media to organize the thievin' version of flash mobs: "flash robs."

It’s a fad that started in Washington, D.C. back in April, when around 20 people filed into a high-end jeans store in Dupont Circle and quickly made off with $20,000 in stock. Since then, the practice has spread — Dallas, Las Vegas, Ottawa, and Upper Darby, Pa. have all reported incidents since then — though the targets have gotten a bit more downscale, with most of the thefts taking place in convenience stores.

The latest crowd theft took place Saturday night at a 7-Eleven in Silver Spring, Md., and it fit the familiar pattern. Kids pour into the store, calmly help themselves to merchandise, and then stream out again.

Incredibly, in a poll taken in August, the National Retail Federation reported that a full 10 percent of businesses surveyed had experienced a “flash mob”-style theft.

Because many of these crimes remain unsolved, we don’t really know much about who these kids are, and how they get together. In Upper Darby, after around 40 teens hit a Sears at a shopping mall, the police were able to arrest 15, and the superintendent said they told him the event was planned out “earlier in the day on a social-networking site.

Bill Wasik of Wired's Threat Level has the story: Link

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2 solutions here.

1. Provide your store with a panic button that silent alarms the police, locks the doors so that it prevents exiting the store and 3 duck into a bolted back room. Shell gas stations have these for their gas stations.

2. This is of course for sole owners....shotgun under counter and start blasting...not stop theif...not hold it....just start firing...guaranteed whether they live or die they wont be back.
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As a retail worker I haven't experienced a 'flash rob,' fortunately, but I have had my share of all the other types of thievery, prank and general tomfoolery. Some of it is harmless and cute (changing a display in a humorous way) but it gets annoying after a while. It makes me mad when these kids start stealing because it threatens my livelihood. I don't have their parents' fancy health insurance or financial security. Just leave us retail people alone. We are in a no-win situation. We can't restrain or otherwise discipline these crazy kids because we are terrified of being sued.
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These mass shoplifting events should not be called "flash robs" or "flash mob crimes." Flash mobs are not criminal acts: http://bit.ly/oz4Qwb. I'm a co-founder of Improv AZ, a flash mob troupe. Before every event, we look up the local laws to make sure that our events our legal.
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Many decades ago, when I was a kid, the local kids (age: about 10) used to mob family stores in a small California town. Some distracted the clerk while other grabbed candy and dashed.
This is nothing new, except that the kids in my town grew up, while those in D.C. probably never will.
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And I suspect the 10% of all business have been flash robbed statistic is a bit skewed by confusion,too. I bet lots of businesses who've been robbed by groups of people coming in at once to serve as a distraction for members of the group to steal might have mistakenly answered that they'd been flash robbed, too, if the question was asked vaguely enough or if they didn't really understand the flash mob concept. Like when I was a teen in the 90's, it was common enough for groups of 4 or 6 or so teens to go into a convenience store and make the group hard enough to watch all at once that a couple of them could steal while the cashier wasn't able to watch them all that several stores in areas with lots of teens around like near schools had to enact an "only two teens at a time" restriction. And while a bad thing, it's not nearly the same thing as a genuine flash mob robbery. But I could see some less web-savvy shop owners not understanding the difference and saying they'd been victim to flash robbery when it was really just old-school group distraction theft.
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