Protect yourself from flash mob crime sprees

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Dozens of teens, taking over everything from convenience stores to shopping malls, and leaving with whatever they please, it happened in several cities this summer.

IN the YouTube video to the right, you'll see coverage of an event in Germantown Maryland, where more than two dozen people raided a convenience store just before two in the morning.

It's called a flash mob, but it's hardly the organized dancing type. These often social media organized crimes involve dozens of people, who often steal countless items.

They're typically teens, who rush a story at once, many of them smiling and laughing, getting away with whatever they can. It's been a problem at large cities across the nation.

The second YouTube video shows a flash mob robbery by 10 females. This one in Washington D.C., where the girls apparently came in and grabbed what they wanted without paying.

Flash Mob Attacks

Wikipedia defines Flash Mob as a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, artistic expression or—in rare cases—violence.

Regionally, violence has been the prevalent force behind such an assembly, and in the case of a Mississippi mob, it turned fatal.

DA: Video shows white teens driving over, killing black man.

Four teens plead guilty in Five Points beating.

"Are you surprised? Do you think it's just naivety, they don't realize what they're getting into," asked WMBF News Anchor Michael Maely, to Horry County Police Sgt. Robert Kegler, who viewed some of the YouTube clips.

"I don't know, can't tell you what that is," said Kegler.

Kegler is less certain about intent than punishment. "You're looking at larceny shoplifting charges, in that nature. It can range from $575 to $1075 and up to 30 days in jail. More if there's assault."

Kegler and Myrtle Beach Police say flash mob robberies are not happening in the Grand Strand, perhaps because thieves know what they're up against. "Any type of burglary and type of robberies at gas stations, any business, surveillance video is out there, and it's gotten a lot better than it used to be. There's a lot of digital video out there. getting your face a lot more clear," said Kegler.

But our area is not entirely without group crimes, even attacks. Earlier this month the man who says he tried to stop an assault in Deerfield Plantation says two men shot at him, causing him to lose his finger.

In July police say as many as five men attacked three others with a baseball bat near the Aqua Beach Motel after the victims say they refused to buy drugs.  Last year Horry County Police arrested as many as 20 teens believed to be part of a group which attacked a man in Socastee on Peachtree Road, threatening the man's family with a gun before driving off. In Marion, on Halloween of 2009 police say a group of people attacked two siblings. Police believe it was gang related.

"That is probably the first time that I've sent a picture out like that," said Kegler referring to the picture of the jumping bank robber with a gun drawn, like a scene out of a movie, one of two or three police say who hit the BB&T Bank in Murrells Inlet this summer.

Kegler says there are as many as 130,000 cases of crime a year in Horry County, and those numbers remain relatively constant.  He says within those cases crimes by a group are uncommon.

"Most of the time, it's an isolated incident with a single person. We do have an incident here and there where there's multiple, and when I say multiple that's just strictly tow or more," explains Kegler.

Meanwhile, if you're ever at a place where a flash mob crime occurs. Kegler says authorities want your help, but only after you protect your safety.

"If you can get out safely and call the proper authorities so that we can respond, then I say go for it," he suggests.

If you're a witness to any crime, Kegler says the only weapons you should rely on are focus and compliance.

"Don't be a hero. Your best weapons are your eyes, soak it in, it might be the smallest detail that helps police make an arrest on it," Kegler said.

To put it into perspective, Kegler says material things are not worth the risk.

"Coming home to see your wife husband, children, that can't be replaced. A wallet, a driver's license, things inside the wallet, that stuff can be replaced."

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