Organized by social networks, usually perpetrated by groups of inner city youths, often racially motivated and always leaving property damage, blood and misery in their wake, flash mobs have become a popular technique for criminals specializing in strong arm robbery and assault. The first reports came out of Chicago where the rather quiet North Side experienced 12 attacks in one weekend. Soon reports of flash mob violence appeared in Philadelphia, D.C., St. Paul, Des Moines, Las Vegas and Kansas City. Even my beloved and gun-toting South was not immune as reports of flash mobs rolled in from Charlotte, Columbia (S.C.), Nashville and Atlanta. All of which has led to a small deluge of mail in my inbox asking how to counter this threat.
Please note: I do not endorse the use of violence for anything other than the protection of life and in no way seek to encourage anyone to engage in violent action of any kind unless one's actions are morally and legally justifiable.
Flash mobs are nothing but an old idea with a high tech twist. Groups of anti-social types have been banding together for nefarious purposes for as long as there has been crime. When I was in high school, the modus operandi of Neo-Nazi groups was to attack minorities or other people they didn't like in "boot parties"; violent assaults that often involved double digit groups of attackers brutally assaulting singular victims. The technique has since been refined by today's tech savvy street predators to use social networking sites to rapidly coordinate vicious attacks that have involved as many as 40 perpetrators.
Regardless of how high tech or how large these groups get, the tactics for dealing with them remains the same. First of all, awareness of your surroundings is paramount. Do not dismiss flash mob violence as "kids having fun". If you see a group of urban youths gathering together in numbers, looking restless, trying to act tough and using racist language, that's your cue to leave. Every fight avoided is a victory. And before emails began pouring in about the racial side of this, please note that the flash mob attacks in Iowa and Wisconsin were dubbed "Beat Whitey Night" by their attackers. I wish it wasn't so but there is a definite racial component to these attacks and we ignore that fact at our peril.
If you are unfortunate enough to be targeted by a flash mob, stay calm and keep a few guidelines in mind. Never get surrounded. I don't care what Jet Li did on screen last week. In reality, no one is very tough against eight or ten determined attackers. Allow yourself to be surrounded and your odds of getting home alive just dropped dramatically. When your assailants try to surround you, move! Make them chase you and line them up so you can deal with one at a time. If you are armed, now is not the time to be timid with your weapon. If confronted by multiple attackers, give a clear, verbal warning and if that warning is not heeded, incapacitate the attacker closest to you, reposition and repeat until the mob loses its nerve or you run out of attackers. As always, if you have the opportunity, escape.
While it is not a pleasant subject, dealing with any form of mob violence is a bloody and visceral affair. That said, it must be remembered that defending yourself and surviving any kind of attack is preferable to becoming a victim. Flash mob violence exists. Prepare accordingly and walk without fear.