Posted on October 21, 2011

‘Flash Robs’ Vex Retailers

Ann Zimmerman and Miguel Bustillo, Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2011

Retailers this holiday season are preparing to protect themselves against a new group of unwanted visitors: swarms of teenagers and young adults who plot via Twitter, phone texts and Facebook to descend on stores and steal merchandise.

Law enforcement officials call them “flash robs,” a criminal incarnation of the “flash mob” phenomenon in which participants use social media to organize impromptu gatherings, from dances in shopping malls to uprisings in the Middle East.


The National Retail Federation says that flash-mob attacks were reported by 10% of the 106 retailers it surveyed in July, a group that included department stores and big-box chains, as well as grocery and drug-store operators. Security personnel or police nabbed suspects in about half the cases, according to the survey, which examined crimes involving more than one perpetrator. Several incidents resulted in injuries, the survey found.


Retail merchandise theft rose almost 8% last year to $27 billion, according to the preliminary results of a security study conducted by the University of Florida for the NRF. {snip}