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How to catch a flash mob

11:30 PM, Aug 25, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The "flash mob" phenomenon is posing new challenges for police and community leaders.

In cases across the country, it's escalated to violence and vandalism.

Local police now team up with federal officials to sniff out the mobs.

Even if there is an arrest, the crime is considered minor nearly 100 percent of the time, with charges such as vandalism, disorderly conduct, or simple assault.

Still, the flash mob threat is now important enough to put in the hands of Homeland Security.

The Fusion Center, located on the ninth floor of the Justice Center in Cleveland, monitors Internet communication from Ashtabula to Lorain counties and all communities in between.

The group was originally organized to monitor potential terror activity and alert appropriate law enforcement.

They are now monitoring social media to root out the mobs.

"The challenge to law enforcement is to know when you have a group that is there for trouble or have a group that is there for fun and communicate," Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid said.

"Our goal is to catch that message as soon as it goes out so that we're not caught off guard," Cleveland Police Spokesman Sammy Morris said.

Among the analysts are Cuyahoga County Sheriff's deputies, Homeland Security agents and Cleveland police officers.

The challenge is having enforcement in place before the mob assembles.

"We're dealing with a younger age group that aren't real sophisticated. To pick up on what we are looking for is not very difficult at all," Fusion Center Director Bill Schenkelberg said.

Local rapper Machine Gun Kelly's flash mob publicity stunt at Strongsville's Southpark Mall was not detected beforehand.

It took the trouble to a new level.

"You get copycats that do that. They see some of the success story that this individual had, now all of the sudden they are doing it for their own selfish purposes, Sheriff Reid said.

The two greatest deterrents are a strong police presence and tips from parents and kids.


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