Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Is Anchorage, Alaska Prepared To Cope With The Flash Mob Phenomena Afflicting Cities Like Philadephia And Kansas City?

Many Alaskans may not be familiar with the growing incidents of flash mobs afflicting certain cities in the Lower 48. A flash mob, generally consisting of hundreds of teenagers and young adults, forms after someone puts out the word on a social networking site to show up in a certain part of town at a certain time.

Philadelphia has been particularly victimized by flash mob activity. Five major flash mob incidents have taken place in Philly since May 2009. The most recent, which occurred on March 20th, is documented in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is shown on the video embedded below (read one victim's personal story HERE):

Here's a video of a separate incident in Philly from June 2009:

And it's spreading beyond Philadelphia. Western Voices World News reports on a flash mob incident that took place in Kansas City. According to KMBC Channel 9, an estimated 700 to 900 juveniles created a disturbance at the Country Club Plaza around 9 P.M. Saturday April 10th. The mob was attracted by a notice posted on Facebook. Two innocent bystanders were attacked, a man and woman. The woman said her purse was taken and someone tried to pull a ring right off her finger. Police had to use pepper spray to disperse the mob. It was actually the second Saturday in a row that large groups of teens have been spotted roaming the area. Kansas City Police Chief Jim Corwin offers even more information on his blog.

If this phenomena is spreading to Kansas City, it could also spread to Anchorage in the near future. Are we prepared? Recently, Mayor Dan Sullivan expressed the opinion that the current level of police protection in Anchorage is adequate. However, newly-elected East Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Honeman disagrees, and intends to work to strengthen police protection. He would know; he served a career with the Anchorage Police Department. Questions to consider:

(1). Is APD adequately staffed and equipped to deal with a flash mob outbreak? Do they have a specific OPLAN in place to ensure an adequate and timely response?

(2). Anchorage teens like to hang out at our malls, particularly the Dimond Mall. Do our malls have adequate and sufficiently-trained security?

(3). Has the Anchorage Assembly reviewed applicable municipal ordinances to determine if we need to strengthen legislation governing this type of behavior? Can it be done in a courtproof fashion?

We have several examples to draw lessons learned from. Now's the time to prepare for this phenomena, before it occurs. We cannot guarantee there'll be no occurrence, but we can prepare ourselves in advance to nip it in the bud should a flash mob outbreak occur. Mayor Dan Sullivan is welcome to count pennies when it comes to luxuries like museums and parks, and we appreciate his efforts to keep us solvent, but he cannot be pinching pennies when it comes to police protection.

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