Phila. police chief on flash mobs: We'll lock them up

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Officials in Philadelphia are talking tough when it comes to destructive flash mob rampages in the city.

At a news conference Tuesday, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey promised more jail time for minors, beefed up patrols, stronger enforcement and monitoring of social networks to discourage future flash mobs from forming.

"This is not "Leave it to Beaver" type stuff we're talking about here. We are talking about serious crimes being committed, and people being injured," said Ramsey.

He was promising action to curtail flash mobs like the one on South Street Saturday night. Thousands of young people flooded the streets, lured there by messages on social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The mob rampaged down South Street until nearly midnight, running on top of cars, fighting and knocking pedestrians to the ground.

Ramsey said this behavior by young people, some as young as 11 years old, has to stop.

"I'm not in the social business here. We're police officers, and we're going to lock them up. They can go crying to their mother and father later on," he said.

Mayor Nutter echoed those promises.

"If folks want to be out that's one thing. If you want to act stupid, if you want to be a knucklehead, you will be locked up," said Mayor Michael Nutter.

Similar flash mobs terrorized the city in February and early March. Dozens of suspects in those cases are being dealt with in juvenile court this week.

On Monday, a Philadelphia Family Court judge has convicted 10 teenagers of felony rioting.

Judge Kevin Dougherty sentenced one teen to 3 years in the juvenile system and others received lesser sentences Monday in connection with an unruly gathering of mostly teens on February 16.

Police say the teens were part of a group of about 150 that rampaged through a downtown shopping district, throwing merchandise and knocking down pedestrians.

One teen was acquitted and four others have agreed to plead guilty.

More young people faced the judge on Tuesday. Many are being incarcerated while others are being sent to reform schools. The judge is talking to their mothers before he makes a decision on each case.

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