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Bob Parker

Bob Parker

Lt. Robert Parker served with the Omaha (Neb.) PD for 30 years and commanded the Emergency Response Unit. He is responsible for training thousands of law enforcement instructors in NTOA's Patrol Response to Active Shooters courses.

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Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Jose Medina

Jose Medina

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team and runs Awareness Protective Consultants (Team APC) tactical training.

Violent Flash Mobs: Passing Fad or Here to Stay?

Other agencies can learn from a suburban, Ohio, police department's response to a possible flash-mob fight.

August 19, 2011  |  by Robert O'Brien - Also by this author

Flash mobs, which spread via social networking and texting, began about 7 years ago as impromptu, synchronized gatherings for song or dance in targeted public locations. They were good, clean fun. Flashmobs soon expanded to include mass pillow and snowball fights. They were still good, clean fun.

However, somewhere along the way, flash mobs morphed into something different from their early version. Outwardly, new flash mobs resembled the early version, because they're still spread by social networking, texting, impromptu mass gatherings. This is where the similarity ends.

Starting in 2010, a growing number of U.S. cities were experiencing increasing unruliness and violence related to flash mobs, which prompted a greater police response. While flash mob participants considered it all good fun, the innocent people they terrorized had different opinions.

Then in 2011, violent flash mobs in Philadelphia's Center City (downtown) and Chicago's downtown, north side and lakefront were hit by waves of rampaging flash mobs running, stealing, assaulting, and robbing innocent people and businesses. Philadelphia and Chicago responded by flooding the areas with a large police presence.

Some would say violent flash mobs are unique to big cities. They would be wrong. Ask police from East Side suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. In recent years, Cleveland's once quiet, inner-ring suburbs have seen increased crime. 

In the summer of 2010, the family-oriented Coventry Street Arts Fair in Cleveland Heights was the scene of large numbers of youths. While not officially a flash mob, it had all the earmarks of one, especially the violence.  A large number of swirling fights erupted and Cleveland Heights Police had to call in mutual aid from other departments. Ultimately, police arrested nine individuals for felony aggravated riot, and the incident sent shockwaves through Cleveland Heights.

The Shaker Heights Fourth of July fireworks display was marred by fights, which prompted a heavy police response.

The next Cleveland Heights flash mob occurred in October at a shopping center. Police were called for a large unruly, mob rampaging through a Wal-Mart store. Police dispersed the mob only to have it form up again at an adjacent movie theater. A large number of fights broke out, resulting in another mutual-aid police response and arrests.

In December, fights broke out throughout the upscale Beachwood Place Mall, as participants rampaged through the mall, prompting Beachwood Police to call for mutual aid. Seven people were arrested. Beachwood Place Mall closed early.

In March of this year, a family oriented St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Cleveland drew about 300,000 people. There had been no crowd problems in recent years. This year, large numbers of non-reveler gang-banger types descended en masse onto Cleveland's Public Square.

For three hours, police and sheriff's deputies broke up numerous large fights and made a large number of arrests before restoring order.

The next incident happened on June 26 at the Coventry Street Arts Festival in Cleveland Heights. Having learned from their 2010 experience, CHPD assigned 40 of its officers to the daytime fair. All went well, until an estimated 1,500 flash-mobers descended en masse onto Coventry Road. The vastly outnumbered CHPD officers were soon overwhelmed, as flash-mobbers began rampaging, running, fighting, screaming, and yelling.

CHPD called for mutual aid and ultimately arrested 15 participants for felony aggravated riot. The fair and Coventry Road businesses were forced to close early. The next scheduled Coventry Street Arts Fair was canceled. Amid controversy, Cleveland Heights enacted an underage curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the Coventry and Cedar-Lee areas.

At the Shaker Heights fireworks display on July 4, for the second straight year, multiple fights broke out. A large police response to needed to restore order.

There's light at the end of the tunnel. Shortly after this summer's flash mobs in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, police in another adjacent Cleveland suburb learned about a "big fight" planned for South Euclid city park. 

South Euclid Police shut down the park for the entire day of the "big fight" and instead hosted a multi-agency police K-9 training session. K-9 teams from all across greater Cleveland participated. And guess what? No one showed up for the "big fight." Nor did any South Euclid citizens complain about the park closing.

Now, that's what I call "community policing" at its best. Maybe next time SWAT should host a similar multi-agency training session.

Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Morning Eagle @ 8/22/2011 11:37 PM

Just curious about how the courts are treating these stupid punks that get arrested. Are they getting a slap on the wrist and a stern admonition to stop being naughty or are they getting some time behind bars to contemplate the error of their ways? Just wondering because if they know they would be facing some serious jail time it might deter some the ones that have a IQ over 40, if there are any.

Greg @ 8/23/2011 3:59 AM

Honesty here, lets profile the attackers and victims.

Attackers: Black (mostly young males but a high number of females also attacking).

Victims: Whites (all ages, children to older adults).

Simple racism by Blacks who know they won't be charged with a hate crime or civil rights abuse...not a real surprise what we get.

The first time a flashmob is held in an area with concealed carry...bang, bang and bang! and the mewing of their society will start. "Mauricia is a good boy, he's not a gang banger, he a good boy...they're racist, they shot my boy for a candy bar!"

Montgomery County, MD's chief's response to a recent Germantown, MD flash mob robbery at 2:00AM..."hide in the corner, don't make them mad, don't fight back, call us and we'll come by and take a report".

Morning Eagle @ 8/23/2011 9:09 AM

Greg is correct on all points. If these flash mob idiots have any sense at all they will avoid areas where concealed carry is common. However, you can bet your last centavo if one or more did get put out of action by someone defending themselves or others around them, the bleeding heart media would crucify the defender and portray his or her attacker as a pillar of the community and give endless face time to grieving relatives and friends that would tearfully describe the poor innocent victim as a good neighbor, a loving son/daughter/brother/sister/niece/nephew/best friend, etc., that would never hurt anyone on purpose.

If the brilliant advice to victims attributed to the Montgomery Co. chief sets the standard for other departments we can expect this growing phenomena to spread like wildfire. "...don't make them mad, call us and we'll take a report." What the hell kind of law enforcement protection and service is that to counteract or deter future violent attacks by these predators?

Jon @ 9/1/2011 1:39 PM

I am still waiting for the Congressional Black Caucus (or the Congressional Black Crazies as they are known in DC) to demand new laws calling for special and severe punishment for crimes committed while flash mobbing and the outlawing of cell phones as evil instruments of terror and mayhem not protected by the Second Amendment.

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