Flashmobs, they were and still are interesting aspects to our ever growing society. Last year, we saw how flashmobs could be used as a form of group expression. Sometimes this expression took the form of organized dancing, and in some rare cases…it took the form of group violence. But now, flashmobs are being used as a way for youngsters to engage in rapid shoplifting.
Groups of young people are wearing concealing clothing and are shoplifting at convenience stores, and now even at retail department stores. This is a serious problem, not because of the clothing used or the age groups involved…but because of the effectiveness of group crime. Increased numbers of perpetrators means that more loss prevention staff will be required to prevent such group shoplifting. This raises the cost of doing business, because store-owners have to worry more about security. I
But aside from the financial implications, there are societal implications for this development in flashmob evolution. Up until now, flashmobs have been in a gray societal area. They weren’t considered gangs because they can be used for good or bad things. They weren’t considered charities for the exact same reason. But with flashmobs being activated for the sole purpose of shoplifting, a new concern must be addressed. That concern is how flashmobs used for shoplifting directly affect property rights and how this could be used as a way to affect freedom of assembly rights.
Do you remember the film Robocop from the 1980′s? There was a scene at the last third of the film where Robocop tried to arrest a senior member of the OCP corporation. Do you remember what happened? Since Robocop had his 4th “Directive” which said he couldn’t arrest and OCP executive and also since he had the 2nd directive to uphold the law…he suffered a sort of seizure or systems malfunction. Directives in that film can be analogous to our freedoms which are protected by the Bill of Rights.
The two conflicting rights I see here in this case are the First and Fifth Amendments. The first deals with the freedom of assembly and the second amendment deals with general property rights. And although someone might say, “Well the 1st amendment is first so it must be the best!” that doesn’t necessarily mean it overrides all the facts in this flashmob issue. Most importantly, one must understand that the United States of America is a business. And as a business, it’s primary objective is to create wealth and prosperity. That’s why petty theft and rioting is dealt with so harshly here, it is just too expensive to have security watching every window and guarding every bookcase. Every guard, every police officer, every weary employee who has to be “on the lookout” for thieves is diverting resources away from customer service opportunities and other money-making job duties.
Groups of young people may enjoy the “thrill” of shoplifting, but what they don’t realize is that they are affecting the system far more deeply than just “pwning” a local business. Society today observes everything and if flashmobs are used as an effective tool for systematic shoplifting, new levels of scrutiny may be exacted on people who travel in groups. This could create a more tense atmosphere for everyone involved, authority figures and customers alike. Imagine if any group of young people of 5 or more could potentially be a hostile flashmob ready to steal a companies products? The level of tension could directly affect businesses and this usually translates to more security, more tense shopping experiences where you need to wear fancy clothes just to buy a pair of shoes. Eventually, the end result of this type of societal tension escalation is usually greater separation between social groups. But in an environment where the economy is still struggling to get back on its feet, everyone should be treated as a potentially excellent customer. Therefore these flashmobs which are doing group shoplifting should reconsider their actions and community resources should be implemented to create fun and engaging opportunities for young people to feel fulfilled and also acquire status items which make them feel good as a consumer in a very competitive world.