Police say petty criminals in cities across the U.S. are using Facebook and Twitter to plan robberies on local stores that occur in mob-like fashion, with a few dozen individuals entering a store at the same time in order to steal all they can carry.
They call them 'flashrobs' and officials say they happen after the so-called leaders post and text the location of the next hit to their waiting accomplices. Police say the teenagers and young adults are 'told' the location by various forms of social media. They then converge on a store in massive groups of dozens or more out-of-control shoppers robbing the business of armfuls of goods.
Reports of 'flash-robberies' have been made by businesses in the Washington, DC area, as well as Las Vegas, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago. ABC News reports 4 of the flashrobs in Chicago happened over a 10 minute period.
Employees say they come in droves and think it's funny, some even posing and smiling for the security cameras that record the events as they unfold. A Las Vegas clerk said "it's a mob mentality" when the participants are robbing the store.
Merchants in the Washington, D.C. area have seen the trend hit their city with a number of flashmob robberies occurring since spring. In Dupont Circle a men's store was robbed by at least 20 people who took their time and found their correct sizes when choosing which items to steal. Store management said over $20,000 worth of store merchandise was taken in that robbery which happened in less then 15 minutes and can be seen on a FOX News video here.
Georgetown Tee's was also victimized by a flashrob group, reports Fox News. The store owner reported the theft occurred in the middle of the afternoon when two dozen people came into the store and stole thousands of dollars in Georgetown University merchandise. "They immediately started grabbing items, putting them in their shirts and jackets or stuffing them in their pants. Then they tried to leave the store," according to the news report.
"It's very disturbing when you witness a robbery because you’re upset, but there is nothing you can do,” says Dannia Hakki, who was in the store when the flash mob robbery occurred. "I was casually shopping, looking through some shirts. I saw about five kids come on in and they looked like they were doing the same thing. All of a sudden, three or four of them grabbed a bulk of 10 jackets each. They just literally bolted out of the door. It was very quick. The shopkeepers seemed kind of stunned. They didn’t really know what to do."
In a separate incident a small group of men and women entered a Victoria's Secret store in Georgetown Park and loaded their arms with all the could carry and made their way through the store entrance onto the street, where they quickly scattered and disappeared from sight, said Fox News.
Until the recent rash of thefts began flashmob communication through social media networks was used to coordinate large-scale public dances and protests.
Police are concerned with the increase in flash robberies and are asking the public to carefully watch the surveillance videotapes and to report to the police any individuals they recognize.