Increasingly violent flash mobs worry authorities, residents

A flash-mob attack in Montgomery County is receiving national attention.
Police released video of more than two dozen teenagers and young adults ransacking a 7-Eleven store in Germantown.

They grabbed items from the shelves, then waltzed out without paying for hundreds of dollars in snacks.

Flash mobs are fast, efficient and can be scary. Large groups of people meet at a prearranged time and location to engage in an activity together. Flash mobs began harmlessly enough: friends gathering via social media to dance in unison in public. Flash mobs have been dancing, hugging strangers or ordering insane amounts of burgers at the same time.

This year, flash mobs have taken on a new and troubling form. Incidents in Las Vegas, Chicago and St. Paul have turned violent.

In Philadelphia, rampaging bands of youth have terrorized, attacked and injured people. The city's infuriated mayor stepped up police patrols and instituted a 9 p.m. weekend curfew for minors.

“If you want to act like a butthead, your butt is gonna get locked up,” Mayor Michael Nutter said.

Business leaders hope this trend ends soon.

“These incidents can turn violent, they can injure customers, they can damage the store and then there's the financial losses the retailers suffer,” said Joseph Larocca of the National Retail Foundation.

Germantown 7-Eleven customer Kristina Halon says she comes to the store almost every day. She doesn't want the violence plaguing other communities to invade her hometown store. "I just hope it doesn't get more violent," she says.

"You're breaking the law…the implications that go along with that,” says 7-Eleven customer Sandy Chittenden.

Police are working to identify suspects from Saturday's flash mob incident, but have not made any arrests.

“I want to make perfectly clear that the type of mob-based criminal activity, as represented by the recent flash mob incident at a 7-Eleven in Germantown, will not be tolerated in Montgomery County,” said Ike Leggett, executive of Montgomery County. “This incident is a wake-up call to law enforcement agencies, government leaders, and families. We must all work together to help prevent our young people from making wrong choices that can potentially endanger them, specifically and the welfare of our communities, in general.”