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Loss Prevention

Recent flash mob vandalism provokes communities to respond with cash mobs

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On Saturday night a Portland, Oregon convenience store was targeted by a group of 20 teens who reportedly stole over $200 in store merchandise. Video surveillance of the incident shows that after leaving the store, several members of the group returned to the parking lot and threatened a store employee. The employee is seen on video exiting the store with a baseball bat scaring the kids away (just a hunch, that is probably against company policy).

One of the kids has been identified and his mother was interviewed by KPTV. She says, “he didn't steal anything and he doesn't deserve to be punished for the bad choices other kids made”, also saying “he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and now you see the consequences behind it.”

In LP speak, we classify these as a multiple offender crime, where a pre-existing group – everyone from gangs to teenagers to robbery crews – engages in illegal activity. While there are distinct differences in how the groups organize, multiple offender crimes may involve serious criminal behavior including assault, theft and vandalism. In addition to the financial losses they cause companies, multiple offender crimes disrupt the normal flow of business in stores and shopping centers and create significant safety concerns. Some of these traditional multiple offender crimes are being organized with flash mob tactics.

Last year, NRF conducted research and created guidelines for retailers to consider when enhancing theft, civil disturbance, crowd management, workplace violence and safety policies. The report, released in August 2011, was based on 106 U.S. retail companies surveyed about multiple offender crimes following a wave of incidents from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. Over three-quarters (79%) of retailers reported being a victim of a multiple offender crime in the past 12 months. Half of these companies have experienced 2-5 incidents in the same period.

On a far more positive note, this year we’ve been reading about “cash mobs,” defined by Wikipedia, as a group of people who assemble at a local store and all buy items from that business. The purpose of these mobs is to support both local businesses and the overall community, as well as provide social opportunities. Inspired by flash mobs, it's nice to see communities identifying a negative trend and making something positive out of it. Perhaps the cash mob trend will take off - and juveniles who contemplate participating in flash mob vandalism will have a change of heart.