A Maryland lawmaker is considering legislation in next year’s General Assembly to strengthen penalties related to flash-mob robberies.
Delegate Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher, Montgomery Democrat, said he might sponsor a bill that would hold each flash-mob participant responsible for the total amount of merchandise stolen by the group, rather than just for their own actions.
Montgomery officials first encountered the problem last month when roughly 30 young people returning from the county fair entered a 7-Eleven in Germantown en masse and stole merchandise.
If the bill becomes law, anybody who steals $10 in merchandise as part of a $1,000 mass robbery could be charged with stealing all $1,000 worth of items.
In Maryland, theft of less than $100 is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum 90 days in jail, while theft of $100 to $1,000 is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum 18 months in prison and $1,000 fine.
Theft of more than $1,000 is a felony punishable by a maximum 15 years in prison and $25,000 fine.
Flash mobs have become a growing problem in Philadelphia, where teens have in some cases gathered by the hundreds to harass and assault bystanders. Similar incidents have occurred this year in Chicago, Milwaukee, Wis., and the District–where in April about 20 teens robbed a Dupont Circle clothing store of about $20,000 in merchandise.