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Flash Mob Thefts, Part II: The Legislative Response

As I discussed here, last month in Germantown, Md., a crowd of about 30 young people stormed into a 7-Eleven at about 1:45 a.m. and "grabbed snacks and drinks and anything else they wanted and rushed out without paying." Police described the hit on the 7-Eleven a planned event -- a "flash mob theft" that was well-coordinated by the dozens of kids that participated. Other cities such as Philadelphia have also experienced flash mob thefts to the point that Philly's mayor announced a 9 p.m. curfew last month "for city children in certain neighborhoods in an effort to stop increasing occurrences of flash mob violence." 

Maryland is not following Philadelphia by instituting a curfew, but it is weighing an even stronger legislative response. The Washington Times reports that in response to the Germantown incident, state Delegate Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher may sponsor a bill next year that "would hold each flash-mob participant responsible for the total amount of merchandise stolen by the group, rather than just for their own actions." For example, the Times notes, such a law would mean that "anybody who steals $10 in merchandise as part of a $1,000 mass robbery could be charged with stealing all $1,000 worth of items." This change in Maryland law would mean harsher potential sentences for most defendants and, if the collective theft pinned on each participant was of more than $1,000, potential felony charges for each participant. 

Other Maryland delegates are concerned that holding each individual responsible for what the "mob" does may be unconstitutional. Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr. stated that that type of liability is typically only seen in "heinous" crimes such as felony murder. Waldstreicher, however, says the concept is not that unusual and that lawmakers have an obligation to "give our state's attorneys and police officers new tools to make sure the law catches up with what’s happening on the ground."

Posted by Bruce Carton on September 19, 2011 at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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