Cops: Unruly teens at mall not a flash mob

Posted: March 04, 2011

They met at Wendy's around dinnertime, about 35 teenagers no doubt lured by cheap fries and Frostys to the fast-food eatery at 15th and Chestnut, in Center City.

They went from friendly hangout to frenzied freakout in a flash.

But, please, don't call them a flash mob.

One day after rampaging teens hassled pedestrians, stormed the Shops at Liberty Place and overturned tables and display signs in the mall, police yesterday played down the drama as "a disturbance," saying that officers quickly quelled the unrest by arresting five teens and dispersing others.

Lt. Raymond Evers, police spokesman, was quick to point out the differences between Wednesday night's marauders and the flash-mobbing troublemakers who repeatedly terrorized passers-by and vandalized property last spring and in 2009. Then, city leaders, concerned that the young lawbreakers would tarnish tourism and imperil residents, beefed up patrols and held community meetings to discourage mobbing.

As for Wednesday's incident, "we had no indication that any kind of social media was used; there wasn't a big Facebook blast or anything," Evers said, noting that flash mobs traditionally form after participants alert each other online. "No one was injured, and there was no property damage reported."

Police arrested five boys - three 15-year-olds, one 14 and one 17 - on charges of disorderly conduct, conspiracy and related offenses, Evers said. It's unclear if they knew each other; they all came from different high schools.

Loitering teens have proved to be such a problem in Center City that police have stepped up patrols in the after-school and evening hours, especially around places like Wendy's, where they tend to gather.

Some businesses, such as the Apple store on Walnut Street near 16th, have restricted how much time teens can spend in their stores, Evers said. An Apple employee referred comment to their corporate office, which did not return a telephone call from the Daily News.

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