Flash mobs–the impromptu public gatherings organized by text messaging–have taken a more aggressive and raucous turn in Philadelphia as hundreds of teenagers have been converging downtown for a ritual that the New York Times calls “part bullying, part running of the bulls: sprinting down the block, the teenagers sometimes pause to brawl with one another, assault pedestrians or vandalize property.”
Yesterday, police in Philadelphia announced plans to step up enforcement of a curfew already on the books, and to tighten it if there is another incident. They plan to hold parents legally responsible for their children's actions. They are also considering making free transit passes for students invalid after 4 p.m., instead of 7 p.m., to limit teenagers' ability to ride downtown. “This is bad decision making by a small group of young people who are doing silly but dangerous stuff,” Mayor Michael Nutter told the Times. “We intend to do something about it immediately.”
Flash mobs are not unique to Philadelphia, but they have been more frequent here than elsewhere. Others that resulted in arrests and injuries have been reported over the past year in Boston, South Orange, N.J., and Brooklyn.