Philadelphia is not alone. Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Chicago, and other big cities have experienced mob attacks by hordes of teenagers in recent months.
Even the Wisconsin State Fair isn’t immune to mob attacks, as documented in a Milwaukee Fox TV report, complete with victims’ 911 calls.
“They’re pounding on all the cars and they opened my car door and hit my friend in the face,” one caller reported. “My mom just got attacked by a flash mob and her eye is like bleeding,” another told the 911 operator during the Wisconsin attacks.
Some cities dealt with “flash robs”–store robberies that are organized using Twitter and Facebook. In another type of attack, called “knockout king,” teens compete to knock out an unsuspecting victim with a single punch.
One of the Chicago attacks occurred Saturday night at Water Tower Place, which is in the center of the business corridor.
“A group beat a young man on the sidewalk there,” according to Chicago Sun-Times crime reporter Frank Main.
“There were a series of shoplifting incidents starting around the beginning of the year. There is a mix of retail theft–it was a big issue for the merchants in downtown Chicago–but you had these so-called wilding, gooning, whatever attacks on innocent people who are just on the street,” he said.
Main says Chicago’s response, including putting police officers on trains to follow groups of unruly young people, has helped reduce the number of attacks. And, like Philadelphia and other cities, Chicago is strongly enforcing its curfew, he said.
“They’re monitoring cameras that are all networked downtown … to look for problems, and there’s been kind of a message that’s been sent out to people who do this, that: ‘We’re watching you and we’ll crack down on you,'” he said.
Main said it’s not unusual for groups to beat people up in poorer parts of Chicago. When the violence spilled into the affluent parts of town, Main said, “The concern was that it would drive away conventions and … tourists who are visiting during the warm months.”
Situations echo in Philadelphia
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, a former member of the Chicago Police Department, says he’s been in touch his Windy City colleagues.
“They gave us a call. They’ve got some similar situations. It’s different in where it’s happening. They had some right on their lakefront for example, on the beach, but they’ve also had some right along North Michigan Avenue, which if you know Chicago is a very ritzy part of town,” Ramsey said. “They had roving bands of kids causing quite a bit of property damage and issues.”
Officials in both cities are thankful the violence has not escalated as it has in London. Over several days of destruction, rioters have looted stores, injured people and set buildings and vehicles ablaze.
In a BBC video, an image of a burning building rolls while a reporter talks to two women who were drinking wine looted from a local store.
“It’s all about showing police we can do what we want. And now we have,” says one.
“So do you reckon it will go on all night?” asks the reporter.
“Hopefully,” she answers.
In Philadelphia, Commissioner Ramsey said he’s counting on the community’s support to get through what’s happening.