Posted on August 2, 2011

City Preparing Response to Random Attacks by Youths

Allison Steele and Mike Newall, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 1, 2011

A man who crossed paths with a group of teenagers Friday afternoon in Old City ended up in the hospital with broken teeth and a wired jaw after the youths attacked him at Fourth and Walnut Streets.

Seven hours later, a crowd of young people cut a path of destruction through several Center City blocks, assaulting four other men, apparently at random, and leaving one unconscious and bleeding from the head. Of the four people arrested in those attacks, one is an 11-year-old boy.

On Monday, city officials promised to come down hard on anyone caught committing such acts of violence. They also said they were developing a “coordinated response” to deal with random youth attacks, a problem for more than a year despite increased patrols and a shift toward stricter punishments for offenders.


The Police Department on Monday also announced the launch of SafeCam, an online program that allows residents and businesses to register their security cameras with the city, to help police apprehend suspects quickly.

For police, the problem of so-called flash mobs or “wilding” youths has proved frustrating. The city gained national attention last year for stories about large packs of teenagers tearing down sidewalks, knocking over pedestrians, fighting, and vandalizing the Macy’s store in Center City.


In the most recent attacks, a 36-year-old man was jumped by a group of youths at Fourth and Walnut about 2 p.m. Friday. According to one witness, who asked not to be identified, the man walked by a group of teenagers who suddenly began punching and kicking him.


The man was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital with jaw and tooth injuries, police said.

It was not clear whether the afternoon attack had any connection to the later violence.


About 9 p.m., teenagers swarmed the sidewalk near 15th and Sansom Streets and punched a 33-year-old man in the face. An 11-year-old boy tried to grab the man’s bag, according to a police report, but was not successful.

As the teens ran toward Walnut Street, police said, they punched another man they passed, knocking him to the ground. {snip}

The mob then ran to Locust Street, where it descended on another person. One attacker snatched a wallet and cellphone from the victim and held it in the air as others in the group tried to snatch it away, witnesses said.

“No, you can all get your own cellphone on the next person we get,” the teen told his friends, according to a police report.

At Juniper Street and Walnut, the group surrounded a 59-year-old man, punched and kicked him unconscious, and left him in the street, bleeding from the head. The teenagers fled as police arrived, but officers caught four of them, authorities said.


On Saturday, Raymond Gatling, 19, and three juveniles, ages 11, 16, and 17, were charged with conspiracy, aggravated assault, and recklessly endangering another person. {snip}