Could the violent flash mob in Philadelphia on Monday evening, like those which came before it, have been prevented? The answer is yes, of course; prevention is possible, but the execution of it is easier said than done. Violent flash mobs, which follow a pattern of being organized by youth on social media, are the result of a failure in police intelligence gathering, parenting, and self-control of those involved, not to mention a lack of recreational opportunities.
The news report published Monday on Philly.com in the aftermath of the chaos noted that not only aren’t flash mobs a new phenomenon to Philadelphia, but they follow a pattern of being organized on social media. This would leave the reader to assume, particularly because the Police Commissioner conceded that response time was slow, that the short-staffed, over-burdened police department doesn’t regularly monitor online conversations among teens who are likely to commit such an act. In fact, since police officers are usually responding to flash mobs rather than being on-scene where they’re planned to occur — like they are with protests that are organized via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — hours before the flash mob on Monday more than a dozen bike cops arrived in front of CBS 3’s studios in anticipation of an unpublicized direct action targeting a Senator whose been avoiding his constituents. The assumption that police either don’t, or incapable of, monitoring such activity is more a logical conclusion arrived at understandably given the variables presented.
But, as Police Commissioner Richard Ross asserted on Monday, it’s “ridiculous” that policing resources have to be allocated to prevent such demonstrative behavior.
The Philadelphia Police Department could’ve done, and could do, a better job at tracking the young troublemakers online and preventing flash mobs, but they certainly shouldn’t shoulder the majority of the blame for Monday’s occurrence, where an officer was injured and at least two dozen teens were cited for disorderly conduct, that burden is owed to the parents of the teens involved and the teens themselves.
Expecting parents to pay the cost of their child’s incarceration, a practice aimed at promoting parental accountability that last week was suspended in the City, was a bit unreasonable. Expecting parents to have raised a child that respects life, public property and the rule of law is more than reasonable; it should be a standard of parenting. It’s not fair to assume that every teen involved in Monday’s flash mob comes from a home lacking discipline and moral authority, but it’s safe to assert that some of the participants absolutely do. It’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, but it’s also true that one child is capable of upending a village.
Given how the actions of one or two can influence a mob, and the pervasiveness of groupthink among teens, self-control and self-responsibility should be a value every young person is indoctrinated with at home. Young people should be expected to lead and not follow, but society must also acknowledge that young people are also impressionable, and many of them may crave acceptance from peers, thus causing them to participate in activities they understand to be a nuisance. Because of that, young people have to be affirmed regularly; they need to be reminded that leaders stand alone so that others know who to follow.
Philadelphia, and cities like it, can prevent destructive activities like flash mobs, but every sector – police, parents and youth – must own their responsibility. Sure, more recreational opportunities should populate neighborhoods, but their absence shouldn’t be enough to trigger chaos. At the end of the day, home largely informs behavior and values, and its home where teens should learn right from wrong, not the courtroom or in the back of a police car.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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