Flash mobs ride CTA to commit crimes, mayhem on Near North Side

Chicago police and Streeterville universities are warning residents and passers-by to be aware of traveling mobs of teenagers who use the CTA and cell phones to meet up in the Near North Side area and commit crimes ranging from assaults to shoplifting and general mayhem.

Police arrested seven young men in their mid-to-late teen Saturday night on "mob action" charges after about two dozen men attacked a person parking his scooter in the 300 block of E. Chicago Avenue across from Northwestern University's Wieboldt Hall, according to a Tribune news report.

Other flash mob incidents this year include:

  • A group of 70 youths storming a McDonald's at Chicago and State and creating a disturbance that forced the restaurant to close for three hours.
  • "Flash mob offenders" exiting the Chicago/State Red Line station and shoplifting at area stores. This behavior prompted Loyola University to warn students and staff at its Water Tower campus.

From the Tribune report:

In mid-May, Chicago police said they were implementing strategies to
address mob action incidents and flash mobs -- which are often
coordinated through cell phone texting or social networking Web sites --
in the downtown areas. Police, however, have stressed that this
phenomenon, involving large groups of teens, "is not unique to Chicago."

How comforting.

And thanks to Lyletta, a friend who tipped me off to this story. She shared her own experiences in a note to me:

When I'm going north (from the South Side) on the Red Line
on the weekend I've seen kids who
clearly have never been that far north heavily rely on directions from
their phones or from texts that they receive. If you have a reliable
contact with CTA or CPD that I can text when I see something let me
know.

The CTA has told me they are not the
police, and cannot accept text messages from riders about criminal
activities. And I agree. Police must handle crime problems, but when
you're just a few feet away from an offender witnessing a crime in
progress, it's just too dangerous to whip out your phone and call 911.

Chicago Police *do* have a TXT2TIP program "so that YOU can anonymously and
SAFELY help rid your community of crime by sending information to the
Chicago Police Department via a text message from your cellular phone."

However, the police website warns: "If you see a crime in progress or need to report an emergency, please call 911." So, forget that option on a CTA train crawling with knuckleheads.

Here's the full text of an alert issued by Northwestern University after the Saturday night attack by the flash mob:

"On Saturday June 4, 2011, at approximately 8:26 p.m., a male not
affiliated with Northwestern was the victim of an attempted robbery. The
victim had parked his motor scooter on the north side of Chicago Avenue
across from Wieboldt Hall (300 block) when approximately 15 to 20 male
African Americans, all approximately 16 to 20 years old, approached him.
One of the subjects threw a baseball at the victim's face and knocked
him to the ground. Several others from the group punched and hit him
several times. The victim tried to protect himself and fought back. The
subjects eventually fled eastbound toward the lake. Chicago Police and
Northwestern University Police responded, and Chicago Police later
arrested three members believed to be part of the group on mob action
charges. The victim was treated on the scene by Chicago Fire Department paramedics. No proceeds were taken from the victim.The victim could not provide descriptions of the multiple subjects involved.

"University
Police remind all community members to use caution when traveling,
especially at night. Report suspicious activities immediately to the
University Police or Chicago Police by dialing 911 or by utilizing a
Blue Light Emergency Telephone. You can also contact the Northwestern
University Police Department by dialing (312) 503-3456.  Contact the Chicago Police Department if you have any information that might assist in this investigation."

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CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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  • Time for Concealed Carry and Enthusiastic Use.

    A Car or Truck does a great job also.

  • http://www.chicagonewsreport.com/2011/06/dvonte-sykes-trovolus-pickett-derodte.html

    MONDAY, JUNE 6, 2011

    Dvonte Sykes, Trovolus Pickett, Derodte Wright charged with downtown mob action attacks & Streeterville robberies

    Posted by Timothy Fitz at 3:34 AM

    Police have released photos of three of the seven suspects who were arrested in connection with a string of beatings and robberies in downtown Chicago.

    Dvonte Sykes and Trovolus Pickett, both 17, and 18-year-old Derodte Wright, were taken into custody Saturday, June 4, 2011, after several people were beaten and robbed in Chicago's downtown Streeterville neighborhood.

    Police believe the arrestees, who were allegedly involved with a gang of 15 to 20 black youths, participated in four attacks.

    So far, authorities have confirmed a man was beaten and robbed on the 600 or 700 block of North Lake Shore Drive, along the lakefront.

    Another man was attacked with a bat, knocked to the ground, punched, and kicked across the street from Northwestern University's Wieboldt Hall campus at 339 East Chicago Avenue.

    And according to Chicago Breaking news, a third man was beaten and robbed while sitting on a bench in Streeterville.

    For nearly a year, African-American flash mob gangs have been a huge problem in Streeterville, the Gold Coast, and the Magnificent Mile.

    Until recently, most of the mob violence has gone unreported by the mainstream media.

    MONDAY, JUNE 6, 2011

    Dvonte Sykes, Trovolus Pickett, Derodte Wright charged with downtown mob action attacks & Streeterville robberies

    Posted by Timothy Fitz at 3:34 AM

    Police have released photos of three of the seven suspects who were arrested in connection with a string of beatings and robberies in downtown Chicago.

    Dvonte Sykes and Trovolus Pickett, both 17, and 18-year-old Derodte Wright, were taken into custody Saturday, June 4, 2011, after several people were beaten and robbed in Chicago's downtown Streeterville neighborhood.

    Police believe the arrestees, who were allegedly involved with a gang of 15 to 20 black youths, participated in four attacks.

    So far, authorities have confirmed a man was beaten and robbed on the 600 or 700 block of North Lake Shore Drive, along the lakefront.

    Another man was attacked with a bat, knocked to the ground, punched, and kicked across the street from Northwestern University's Wieboldt Hall campus at 339 East Chicago Avenue.

    And according to Chicago Breaking news, a third man was beaten and robbed while sitting on a bench in Streeterville.

    For nearly a year, African-American flash mob gangs have been a huge problem in Streeterville, the Gold Coast, and the Magnificent Mile.

    Until recently, most of the mob violence has gone unreported by the mainstream media.

  • I wasn't sure about the CTA connection until you mentioned that these thugs, like many others, ride the L. Apparently, though, there a better pickings getting off at Chicago and going a few blocks east.

    As far as it is being too dangerous to whip out your phone and call 911, don't you have to whip out your phone and leave it open for theft to text? Apparently, one also has to know that the text phone number is CRIMES, not 911, although I supposed one can store that in advance. Your thumbs will be shot off by the time you get that message out, following all the directions.

    But with plenty of thugs (including some who about a year ago rode from the south side to rob at Howard, like there weren't indigenous ones there), the reported filth, the reported wankers, and the slow zones, I don't see why anyone should want to ride the CTA, nor go to Streeterville, the Beaches, or the Taste as a tourist attraction. Mayor Emanuel is going to have to do something about safety in the city.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, it's pretty clear that the cops don't want you to text about crimes in progress:

    "However, the police website warns: "If you see a crime in progress or need to report an emergency, please call 911." So, forget that option on a CTA train crawling with knuckleheads."

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    After a bit, I figured it was mostly for Crimestoppers.

    911 itself should take texts, but I don't see anything regarding that.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    The downtown Loyola campus has also been warning their students about the groups of teens roaming around downtown. The website referenced above does try to stay on top of crime news, but can be inflammatory. However, if the commenters at that site are to be believed, there is lots more going on with these youths than what is getting out in the media. Frequent assaults on tourists, trains having to stop in Chinatown because of fights and other problems, Starbucks and other businesses locking their doors when the groups of kids come around, etc.

    I wish we could bring back the cops/security on the trains. And, the fact that the CTA can't figure out a way, in conjunction with the cops, to take text messages about urgent crime is ridiculous. I'm not going to use my phone to call them while on a train if it seems too dangerous.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I hope the Tribune will have a good explanation about why they did not report on those earlier incidents at the time. I have been reading about them for months on the Second City Cop blog. SCC is really meant for police officers, and much of it is inside-baseball type stuff, but the rest is an eye-opening view of our city from those who are on the front lines trying to keep us all safe and feeling like they don't have a whole lot of support from the public.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I totally agree! They have also been disabling comments on many of their online pieces. The truth comes out in the comments sometimes and the Trib keeps disabling them!

  • In reply to GMBSAP:

    Don't forget the Tribune owns this site too. I was speaking rather more reservedly about the situation than I would elsewhere.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Thats cool. But we do live in the USA and we should have be able to read comments. JMHO.

  • In reply to GMBSAP:

    Oh, I agree. Suppressing discussion on a site they own is their right, but it may not be the best decision they could make.

    The First Amendment applies to *government* suppression of the press. Some people are wondering whether that was part of what went on.

  • In reply to jack:

    Take a look at this crime map -
    Look at the areas around the red-line stops.

    http://www.trulia.com/crime/#!cook-il/13/41.89600,-87.62389/Chicago,IL/

  • I've been beat-up twice by thugs on the Red Line in the past - I'm glad now I didn't follow my first Bernard Goetz instinct and wreck my own life.

    But one day soon somebody will - watch it hit the fan then.

  • The violence is hitting the buses as well:

    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/06/06/uic-student-attacked-by-mob-on-bus/

  • The cat, finally, is out of the bag.

  • "Police must handle crime problems, but when you're just a few feet away from an offender witnessing a crime in progress, it's just too dangerous to whip out your phone and call 911."

    Really? Why are you telling people NOT to call the cops?! (Perhaps because we all know there aren't enough officers?)
    If calling 911 is "dangerous" then what are we left with. That's right, just stand by and do nothing. What a brilliant article.

  • In reply to bluejellybean:

    Because the Tattler previously said that the thugs will steal your phone if you show it.

    Maybe mental telepathy will work.

  • In reply to jack:

    I think it would depend on the number of thugs in the vicinity whether or not calling 911 would put a person in danger. If it's two or three of them intent on their victim, you could probably take a few steps away and call.

  • In reply to jack:

    I disagree with the use of the term "flash mobs" to describe these groups. Flash mobs are when people use the internet to organize a sudden and unexpected crowd of people, most of who probably don't know each other, to show up at a certain place at a certain time. They usually do something silly, like perform a song or have a pillow fight. The core idea of a flash mob is to do something non-threatening and amusing, and to unify strangers for a common purpose. Improv Everywhere organizes lots of flash mobs, for instance.

    These roving bands of thugs are not flash mobs -- they're not targeting a specific location, they're probably friends who all know each other, and they most certainly aren't doing silly or non-threatening things.

    I'm just worried that the use of "flash mob" to describe these groups will prejudice people against groups like Improv Everywhere.

  • In reply to jack:

    Some things I see coming soon:

    Somebody is going to whip out their 357, and start blowing mob members away; or go get in their car and play "Death Race 2011".

    The Ku Klux Klan and/or Aryan Nation will become involved.

    Watch what I say.........

  • John Kass coined the term "flash mobsters " for these types of criminals.How about relay texting ?Text someone that can safely call 911 and let them report it for you.I think I am going bring this up on the Emmanuel suggestion site about the inability to text 911.

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