Addressing the Proliferation of Flash Mob Robberies

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The proliferation of flash mob robberies has increased in recent years, and as evidence and recent reports show, the problem is heightening at an alarming rate. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that these incidents cost companies roughly $700,000 for every $1 billion in sales. We are now seeing flash mob robberies in the news almost daily, and it seems appropriate that we revisit this specific type of ORC after a severe incident recently broke headlines.

What Is a Flash Mob?

First, let’s readdress the basics. What is a flash mob robbery? A flash mob robbery is a form of organized crime that occurs when groups of people suddenly enter a store, steal as many items as possible, and vanish as quickly as they appear. For those around them, it’s often terrifying and disturbing. The schemes are usually thought out via social media and executed within a matter of minutes. The groups typically disguise themselves by wearing masks, hoodies, or gloves. Often, aggressive behavior is used and causes those who are present great distress.

This dilemma is growing at a rapid rate and occurring throughout the United States to an extent we’ve never seen before. These incidents can be detrimental to retailers and innocent bystanders and are a very serious threat to society.

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The ORC problem our nation is facing has certainly caught the attention of law enforcement, and they (as well as LP professionals) are doing their best to prevent these incidents from taking place. However, the unpredictability and speed these flash mob robberies are taking place at is making prevention a real challenge.

A recent example of a flash mob robbery occurred on August 12 in Los Angeles when a group of over thirty men and women dressed in monochrome black and gray busted into Nordstrom at the Westfield Topanga Mall. Employees and other shoppers were terrified, saying “It was awful to watch.” The mob headed toward expensive handbags, clothing, and jewelry, alarming those around them with glass shattering that sounded like “gunshots.” The entire store was ripped apart. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, nearly $300,000 worth of merchandise was taken.

What You Can Do

These types of scenarios are happening far too often, and understanding what to do during these incidents is important. If you encounter a flash mob robbery, the most important thing to do is remain calm, according to Backdoor Survival. Do not resist, and avoid making eye contact with perpetrators. If possible, try to carefully observe the characteristics of the group members, and of course, remove yourself from the situation and call for help as soon as it’s safe to do so. Provide the police with as many details as you can recall. Always remember to prioritize your safety and never jeopardize it by attempting to confront the perpetrators.

As far as what retailers can do, there are several ways of taking precautions to mitigate these scenarios and possibly even prevent these incidents from occurring at all. According to 4 Steps Retailers Can Take to Combat Flash Mobs, below are a few examples retailers can take.

  • Retailers can invest in advanced technology solutions like surveillance cameras to monitor their store premises (to read more about technology like this, click here).
  • Train staff members and associates to recognize the signs of potential threats and to respond quickly in an emergency. 
  • Limit the capacity of the store at certain times and consider installing barriers to deter potential criminals.
  • Although this step will vary from store to store, retailers should try to design store layouts to prevent theft and violent incidents.
  • Retailers can develop a crisis management plan in the event of a flash mob robbery and ensure that staff are trained in how to respond appropriately.
  • Lastly, retailers can collaborate with local law enforcement agencies to better prevent and respond to flash mob robberies.

In the long run, prioritizing safety during and after these stressful incidents can enhance the overall success and sustainability of a retail business.

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