At U. Darby Sears, dozens invade & flee with thousands in merchandise

Upper Darby police released this surveillance image that they said was recorded during the invasion of the store by dozens of youths.
Upper Darby police released this surveillance image that they said was recorded during the invasion of the store by dozens of youths.
Posted: June 27, 2011

DOZENS OF West Philly boys - ranging in age from 11 to 19 - stormed a Sears store in Upper Darby on Thursday as part of a "flash mob" and made off with thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise, police said.

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said he believed that the group organized the mass theft through social networking, although the exact networking site was not yet clear.

He said that the kids traveled together on public transportation and arrived at the store on 69th Street en masse about 7:10 p.m.

The kids - Chitwood estimated there were around 40 boys - scattered throughout the store and began to "rob, steal and pillage," he said.

They took everything from sneakers to watches but left behind the boxes and tags, Chitwood said.

As of this weekend, Sears was still trying to tally up its losses, which were believed to be in the thousands of dollars, police said.

Responding officers were able to capture 16 of the suspects, the youngest of which was 11 and the oldest, 19. The 19-year-old was charged with retail theft and corrupting the morals of a minor.

The other 15, all of whom were juveniles from West Philadelphia, were charged with retail theft and released to the custody of their parents, Chitwood said.

"When this mob mentality comes to a community and robs a village, there has to be consequences," he said. "That's the only way you're going to stop this."

Chitwood said that while some of the parents were very upset when they picked their kids up, for some, it seemed just "like part of a day's work."

"People have to realize this is not condoned, funny or cute. It's criminal. Period," Chitwood said. "If you've got an 11-year-old involved in this type of mob mentality, what are they going to be doing when they are 16?"

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