During a recent flash mob robbery, a group of kids ransacked a convenience store in Dallas, Tex.
On a Friday night in August, a posse of mostly African-American teenagers stormed into the Exxon Tiger Mart on the I-20 highway. At first, they simply used their power in numbers to walk in and then walk out with hands full of goods, but when store clerk C.J. Thomas tried to stop a looter, the mob turned violent.
The group began punching the clerk and continued to do so after he momentarily lost consciousness. A security camera caught the event on video, and many of the youths' faces are clearly visible.
Once they got me on the ground, I thought they were going to kill me, Thomas told Dallas' News8.
Thomas was pulled to safety by two girls who were participating in the robbery.
The Tiger Mart incident is sadly reminiscent of a flash mob that occurred in Germantown, Md. the same month.
Surveillance footage of the incident shows a group of teenagers walking wordlessly into the convenience store. They are followed seconds later by a stream of people, presumably juveniles, many covering their faces with shirts and hoods. The group walks around the store, taking as much as possible, before leaving 40 seconds later.
Flash mobs -- and not the fun kind with spontaneous dancing in malls -- are an increasingly frequent trend that often have severe results, and townships and police departments around the country have been trying to figure out how to combat the problem.
As insinuated by their name, flash mobs have little rhyme or reason. They are generally organized through technology -- either on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, or through text message, BlackBerry Messenger or email.
In Cleveland, the city council tried to make organizing via social media an illegal activity. However, Mayor Frank Jackson immediately vetoed the bill, saying it infringed on the right of all citizens.
Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter came up with a different solution, one which has so far worked. Philadelphia has been experiencing some of the country's worst flash mobs over the past year, spurring Nutter to institute a weekend curfew for minors.
In the Center City and University City neighborhoods, anyone 17 or younger must be home by 9 p.m. In all other areas of the city, anyone under the age of 18 must be indoors by midnight, and anyone under 13 must be off the streets by 10 p.m. With just one weekend under the new law, police apprehended around 50 kids who were out too late. The juveniles will face fines for as much as $300.
Before the curfew, Philadelphia was a sometimes terrifying city come nightfall. In July, about 30 teenagers congregated near City Hall and severely beat two people, leaving one unconscious and the other needing surgery for a broken jaw. In June, some gangs attacked pedestrians and people leaving restaurants, while others robbed train passengers. Still others walked into stores and businesses and walked out with stolen goods.
Critics have been quick to blame technology and race for the crimes, but both explanations fail to paint a full picture. In England, after rioters in August 'BBMed' each other where to loot, the initial ineffectiveness of London's police may have contributed to the scale of the violence. And Mayor Nutter may be right when he insinuates that poor parenting has eliminated the social consciousness of a young demographic.
But what really matters now, in the present, as people in the United States are pulled from their cars and brutally assaulted on the street or as stores are robbed en masse, is how to stop it. It seems that curfews are working, for the time being.
Related: Flash Mobs: 5 Things to Know