Do Police Need a Social Media Strategy to Prevent Flash Mobs?


Cities are struggling with how to prevent and prosecute a new spate of violence organized over social media, says the Christian Science Monitor. When a massive flash mob rampaged outside the Wisconsin State Fair, injuring 11 fairgoers on Aug. 4, old-fashioned police work quickly led to the arrests of 31 people. When 25 teens looted a 7-Eleven on Aug. 13, outside Germantown, Md., police posted a surveillance video on YouTube and visited a local high school with pictures of the perpetrators. Within days, 15 of the 26 suspects were identified. This week, two teens were found guilty of orchestrating a “flash mob” style beating in Philadelphia that left one man with a broken jaw.

While New York city has established the nation’s first Social Media Unit, and the Los Angeles Police Department has hunted down criminals using Twitter hashtags as digital fingerprints, only 30 percent of police departments have an active social media policy, says the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The most common police strategy for preventing flash mobs has been the tightening of curfews and a boosted police presence, all of which have been at least somewhat effective in Milwaukee, Chicago, and and Philadelphia. Traditional law enforcement strategies may be the best police can do,

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