A Flash Mob was originally a mass of  people organized by using social media (Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging) to meet at a given location, at a given time, in acts of public spontaneity to perform, sing or otherwise entertain anyone who happened by.

The term Flash Mob is now used to describe incidents in which a group of participants – often teenagers – enter a retail or convenience store en masse and steal items, and then leave the retail store before law enforcement arrives.  Typically, store employees are overwhelmed by the number of people engaged in the activity and are unable to stop it.

The Flash Mob Thefts have usually occurred in or near large cities (New York, Chicago, St. Paul, Portland, Washington, D.C.) and involve youths between 13 and 17 years of age.

During a Flash Mob Theft, 10-20 or more youths will enter a store, spread out and quickly loot and steal.  Their activities mark a similarity to organized retail theft.

One of the challenges of Flash Mob Theft is the real-time immediacy with which flash mobs (using social media) can organize and commit crimes.


Law enforcement agencies are attempting to confront flash mobs by monitoring Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

Recommendations for Retailers

Retailers and store employees should adhere to the following guidelines in the face of possible Flash Mob Thefts:

  • Call your local law enforcement agency as soon as a possible flash mob event is recognized.
  • Obtain descriptions of those involved.
  • Secure any video of the incident.
  • Pay special attention to and attempt to identify, if possible, leaders giving orders, vocalizing on what to steal, pointing where to go, etc.
  • Obtain descriptions of any motor vehicles involved, if possible.
  • Monitor and identify how much and what type of product is stolen.
  • If the store is in a mall setting, call mall security.
  • Share information with other retailers.
  • Protect any physical evidence left by flash mob.