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Flash Mobs: Why Going Along With the Crowd Can Be a Very Bad Idea

Young people using the social media to participate in flash mob activity may think it's just harmless fun. But these gatherings can also result in criminal activity.

When we talk about flash mobs, sometimes we think about the fun flash mobs we see on the Internet.  For instance, the spontaneous song and dance of a large group of people at Grand Central Station in New York was very entertaining, innocent fun and, obviously, it was great to see. There are many similar entertaining flash mob appearances available for viewing on You Tube. 

The bigger issue is when you have a large group of young people at stores or shopping centers such as the Mayfair Mall incident last year where they willfully caused destruction, stole merchandise, and scared customers and employees. The police arrested nine juveniles after 80 to 100 young people stampeded through  Boston Store, knocking over mannequins and racks of clothes. There were fistfights. It was ugly.

When you get a large group of youth together, especially if it’s highly coordinated with the use of the Internet and Facebook, it becomes instantly overwhelming for security, let alone those working in the stores. When large groups wander into the store, you can’t keep an eye on all of them.

Flash mobs are a serious, ongoing issue and parents need to be talking about this problem with their teenagers. In Wisconsin, we have the concept of party to a crime.  Let’s say there’s a flash mob where somebody gets beat up or a large theft takes place at a store. In this day and age, security cameras are everywhere.  If your child is identified or it becomes clear that they are a party to this or has direct knowledge of how the flash mob was planned, there’s an argument to be made that they were a party to a crime and can be charged accordingly.

When these flash mobs occur, a big part of the fun is that the kids take out their phones and video the action. The video makes its way onto You Tube. If you are identifiable on the video, even if you’re not the one throwing a punch or stealing something, there’s a good argument that could be made by prosecutors that you are now party to a crime.

Again, you could be charged accordingly. It could be battery, theft, vandalism, or criminal damage to property.

Just as we advise our clients about how to monitor their kids’ use of cell phones and other mobile devices, we strongly urge parents to take a keen interest in how their youngsters are using the devices. For example, if you see text messages or notice that their Facebook page mentions that a flash mob will be taking place, ask questions.  Don’t let them go to these types of gatherings because nothing good is going to come of it. Make sure your kids are doing what they are supposed to be doing, not taking part in nefarious activities via the Internet or over the phone.

It’s all just one more example of why being a parent is such a tough job. But making the effort could very well save your child from having a criminal record.

About Attorney Mark Powers
Attorney Mark Powers is a partner at the criminal defense law firm of Huppertz & Powers, S.C. in Waukesha. Previously, Powers served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office as well as a municipal judge in North Prairie. He currently focuses in the area of criminal defense, and has handled many cases involving operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, domestic disputes, and drug offenses.

Powers attended Valparaiso University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Prior to law school, Mark attended the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse where he received his bachelor of science in Political Science.

For more information, please call 272.549.5979 or visit www.waukeshacriminalattorneys.com.

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Bren September 27, 2012 at 10:23 PM
If I inadvertently deleted a transcendent observation of yours, Bob, please re-post it. I don't want to cheat the world of your insights! ; )
Bob McBride September 27, 2012 at 10:26 PM
No, Bren, there really was no need for me to comment in that particular thread. You'd been thoroughly taken to task and there really was no "street fight" left in it. Hence you "accidentally" deleting the comment. Nice try, though.
Betty September 28, 2012 at 12:26 PM
When was the last flash mob? This is so two thousand and late.
Craig September 28, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Mark; Though this isn't related to a flash mob, it still illustrates that good kids can make stupid fatal errors. My heart breaks for this family and what they will endure in the coming months. http://news.yahoo.com/conn-man-kills-masked-teen-learns-son-063653076.html
Craig September 29, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Ah Yes, The Black Eyed Peas! Thanks for the reminder.

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