Violence surprised some in ‘flash mob’

    For some Philadelphia teens who participated in recent flash mobs, the gatherings were just a way to have fun. But the situations quickly turned to chaos.

     

    For some Philadelphia teens who participated in recent flash mobs, the gatherings were just a way to have fun. But the situations quickly turned to chaos. 

    Joey Rocco owns a Joey’s Fire Stone Pizza  shop at Sixth and South Streets in Philadelphia. Last Saturday night, he looked out the window of his shop and noticed how crowded the street was. Within seconds, he says, the place erupted in chaos with kids beating up kids, and others banging on the windows of his shop.

    Rocco:  “All of a sudden I saw a very large group coming toward Fifth street here and they stopped in the middle of the street and they were jumping up and down, and I don’t know what that was about. And then the next thing I know they broke away, another crowd converged and it just turned into utter chaos.”

    But he says not all the kids were causing the mayhem.

    Rocco:  “There was a lot of kids out here that were scared. I could see them, they were up against the window trying to hold each other, and not be noticed. You know South Street’s a fun place and its the only place where a lot of kids can hang out.”

    Linda Burnette is the executive director of Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program. Burnette says many of the kids with whom she works were on South Street last weekend. She says the flash mobs may start out as innocent gatherings, but then kids who are spoiling for a fight take advantage of the crowded situation.

    Burnett: “So the moment of fight happens you have two groups of people. You have the group that’s gonna crowd around and say, ‘Wow, the excitement of a fight.’ And then you have the group that’s gonna start running away from it because they know they have enough concern from their parents that they know they better not get caught.”

    Burnette says she has encouraged youths in her organization not to participate in any flash mobs, because they can’t control who shows up.

    South Street merchants such as Rocco say they hope the stepped up law enforcement efforts will keep youthful flash mobs away.

     Rocco, like other South Street merchants, is worried how this trend will affect his bottom line.

    Rocco:: “And it’s really bad for the neighborhood because after this past winter, with the weather and the economic situation, South Street has truly suffered. And we wait for this season to come in because this is when we make our money.”

    Rocco says he’s glad the city police are stepping up enforcement to prevent more flash mobs from turning violent.

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