New curfew for Philly teens as mayor blasts flash mobs
Curfew is taking on a whole new -- that is, more official -- meaning for teenagers and pre-teens in Philadelphia, where the mayor is combating marauding mobs of kids known as "flash mobs" by ordering anyone under 18 to be off the streets by 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights in problem-plagued areas of the city.
Blaming recent violence on a "relatively small number of complete knuckleheads," Mayor Michael Nutter told a news conference Monday that increased police patrols will round up minors caught outside after the curfew hours, and that parents will be called to pick up their kids. Parents could face fines of $500 if their children are picked up, or charges of child neglect if they don't fetch their children.
The 9 p.m. curfew affects Philadelphia's Center City and University City neighborhoods, which on recent weekends have been plagued by swarms of kids -- some as young as 11 -- responding to Twitter and text messages calling for mobs to converge. The resulting crowds often wreak havoc.
On Sunday, Nutter delivered an angry lecture from a church pulpit that hinted at the crackdown, which represents a step up from the city's existing curfew for minors. "If you want to act like an idiot -- move," Nutter said, directing his comments at troublemakers as well as parents who he said aren't keeping tabs on their youngsters.
He followed up Monday by announcing the stringent new measures, which come two weeks after a recent flash-mob rampage by more than two dozen youths left one man hospitalized with a broken jaw. It's already illegal in Philadelphia for those 13 and under to be on the streets after 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The curfew is midnight for those age 13 to 18. Nutter said those rules will be more strictly enforced, along with the enhanced curfews covering Center City and University City.
While Philadelphia has had more than its share of flash-mob troubles lately, it's not the only city dealing with the phenomenon sparked by the social media frenzy. A man was shot during a flash-mob flare-up in Venice last April. Not all flash mobs end badly, as passengers on a Hawaiian Airlines flight discovered in July when hula dancers began singing and dancing at 38,000 feet.
Photo: Members of a flash mob run down a Philadelphia street. Credit: Laurence Kesterson / Philadelphia Inquirer /Associated Press