Violence experts say “Flash Mobs” are rare

    Philadelphia police are increasing their presence around the Gallery Mall after a violent mob of teenagers tore through the area yesterday. One youth violence expert says this incident, while scary, is not typical.

    Philadelphia police are increasing their presence around the Gallery Mall after a violent mob of teenagers tore through the area yesterday. One youth violence expert says this incident, while scary, is not typical.

    Store owners in the Gallery say they were terrified when about 150 teens rushed through the mall, shoving and knocking down shoppers. Some worry the incident will scare away customers.

    Philadelphia police say they arrested 16 youths from seven different high schools. The teens face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to assault.

    Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel says they will not get off easy:

    Some of the kids thought they were going into some community service program. That has been pulled, and they are going to see a judge as to what causes their behavior,” Bethel said. “That will be a starting point. This is not going to be a game of tag; this is going to be a very aggressive plan to ensure that this is not going to happen again.”

    Dr. Joel Fein directs the Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center. He says this kind of mob scene is attention-getting, but not common:

    We don’t want to make it seem like this is the actual problem of youth violence,” Fein said. “We’re actually not even sure that the children and youth who were involved were setting out to commit violence. We do know that in our city, on a daily basis, we do see children and youth fighting, sometimes to the point where they get to the hospital, or even killing each other, that is different from this kind of event which is a very large mob event.”

    Fein says his center is working with teens all over the city to teach them skills to avoid violent situations and behavior. He says the attention that this incident attracted could inspire copy cat incidents.

    Police think the crowd may been brought together via social media.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.