Flash Mob Crime a Sign of the Times
Mob: a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence.
Do you remember Flash Mobs? They didn’t appear by accident. They were orchestrated events designed to appear spontaneous happenings involving lots of people in a public space. These flash mob eruptions had been taking place in various spaces around the country so that it was almost a fad of sorts. The aim, it seemed, was harmless entertainment.
We even had one in Duluth, directed by Crystal Taylor who had been designated “Flash Mob Organizer” by Mayor Ness, if my memory is accurate. The event took place in the summer of 2011. The flash mob occurred during Sidewalk Days, an annual event that draws people into town for a week of shopping and real life face-to-face socializing.
A darker form of flash mobs has been happening recently in San Francisco and Minneapolis. You may have heard about these mass shoplifting events in which groups show up and steal as much merchandise as they can then flee. Now the police are saying that criminals are using Snapchat and other apps to organize these stealing sprees. It’s a new form of organized crime.
On November 20, 90 people showed up to overrun a Nordstrom’s store in San Francisco. These were people who didn’t know one another, but responded to the announcement of a flash action. The Wall Street Journal this week stated, “The thieves stole more than $100,000 of merchandise in one minute before escaping in 25 separate cars that had their license plates removed or covered, prosecutors said.”
I remember reading about how revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were coordinated through Twitter and other social media. If these flashmob robberies were to continue unabated, it could easily result in copycat events around the country.
How would this play out long term? Would the government use A.I. to gather intel ahead of such events in order to intercept these organized mobs in a variation of the pre-cogs in Minority Report? To do so would require a further intrusion into our privacy in the name of security.