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A mellow (but still criminal) flash mob in Maryland

August 16, 2011 |  4:30 am

 

Flash mobs come in all shapes and sizes. And they don't all turn violent -- those in Philadelphia and Britain being notable examples of the violent category. Exhibit A in the nonviolent category? A flash mob over the weekend that essentially amounted to a group of teenagers (some giggling) shoplifting from a 7-Eleven.

It all went down in Montgomery County, Md., an affluent suburb just north of Washington, D.C. The store's security video feed (shown above) caught the event and shows the kids quietly but quickly entering the store.

One boy knocks over what looks like a bag of chips and leaves it in the aisle. A girl picks up the chips and places them back on the shelf, then hikes up her jeans. The kids do not look like seasoned criminals.

"If you've seen the videos, they are laughing and smiling, but as a police department we are taking this very seriously," Police Officer Howard Hersh of the Montgomery County Police Department said in an interview with the L.A. Times.

A police report details what happened: Late Friday night (technically Saturday morning), 30 kids walked into a 7-Eleven and stole items including snack food and drinks. The group stayed in the store for approximately one minute and then exited, also as a group. Many of the suspects had covered their faces with items of clothing.

Hersh said his team does not know how the heist originated, but said it seems obvious that it was coordinated via cellphone or social media. As to whether the kids arrived via foot or car, he said, the answer is one of those the investigation seeks to determine.

The police have already identified several of the people in the video, and the bureau's detectives are planning to show the footage to various businesses in the neighborhood and at schools to try to identify others.

If you know anything about the kids in the video, you can text the department.

For those unclear on the specifics, the department offers these directions on its website:

User types "MCPD" plus their tip on their cellphone or PDA and text it to 274637 (CRIMES). The text message is encrypted and an alias is generated, masking the identity of the sender from the police. The police have no way of determining the user’s identity. An anonymous 2 way dialogue is possible with investigators.

The changing way we communicate may be helping facilitate crimes, but maybe it can also help solve them.

Yes, yes, you can do essentially the same thing at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/police or www.tipsubmit.com (click on the Web Tip link). Heck, you could even call 240-773-TIPS (8477) or 866-411-TIPS (8477) if you really want to be old school.

The end result should be the same -- it will just lack that satisfying full-circle element.

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--Deborah Netburn

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