For the last couple of years, there have been a bunch of reports in the paper of teens getting together on Twitter and agreeing to meet up on the El or Michigan Avenue to mess with people. Strangely enough, a lot of these kids don’t even know each other, but find each other through social media and have being a punk in common. So they get together and get a thrill out of “bravely” attacking individuals with a group of people. They get their punches in and run off, sometimes also stealing stuff before they leave.
Fortunately, in most cases these attacks have led to just bumps, bruises and some psychological trauma. In a few cases it’s led to extended hospitalizations. Last week it happened and reportedly more than 30 of these kids got arrested, almost of all of them were under 18.
The problem isn’t catching these flash mob offenders. Most of them get caught in the act or are traceable to their stupid social media postings. And for the most part, the police presence in these higher profile areas is strong. Chicago certainly has an incentive to keep these areas crime free. The problem is that most of these kids will end up with a slap on the wrist or the case being dismissed.
For example, in one case, two doctors in town for a convention were robbed and hit. In order to get a conviction at trial, those same doctors would have to be willing to fly in for a criminal trial. That’s an expense that the county can’t afford, especially in a case against juveniles, so often the charges get tossed.
In my opinion, the only way to stop these crimes is to have some real teeth in the charges. We need to prosecute everyone involved as an adult and charge them with the major felony of mob action. Some kids who simply made a bad decision will get caught up in this, but that’s too bad. There’s no reason that this stuff should still happen. Until word spreads that the time isn’t worth the crime it will keep happening.
I have a friend whose Bucktown home was broken in to buy a teen. The cops said he’s done this over 10 times and they knew exactly who he was. But the kid knows that nothing is going to happen to him, at least nothing he cares about, so he keeps doing it.
So until we decide that some lives are going to have to ruined to deter others, these crimes will keep happening. Until someone who thought they were just goofing off spends a year in jail, it will keep happening. We have to decide as a City if we are more concerned about the costs of sending a message than we are about the harm that not doing anything can cause.
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