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Over the weekend, a group of over 40 teens jumped the turnstiles at an Oakland, California, public transit station, boarded a commuter train, robbed seven individuals and left two people injured before leaving the train and station. It's possible that as many as 60 teens were involved. Witnesses described the situation as quickly shifting from what seemed like boisterous horseplay to confusion and violence as the large group of teens boarded and ransacked the train.
While many passengers were left shook, police were able to identify some of the teenage suspects caught on the surveillance cameras, and are seeking arrest warrants.
Crime Prevention on Public Transit
The transit agency is viewing the matter as a learning experience, and is exploring ways to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future. Shockingly though, it was reported that only six out of nine of the train's passenger cars had working surveillance cameras. To temporarily alleviate fears, the transit agency has increased officer patrols at certain stations.
The video has not been released publicly as there are protections from public disclosure for juvenile criminal matters under state law. Unfortunately, although officers were patrolling the station, in the minutes it took them to arrive, the mob of teens had come, gone, and dispersed.
Flash Mob Criminal Conspiracy
Since the rise in popularity of flash mobs several years ago, individuals have frequently wondered about the legality of their activity. Generally, so long as the mob is not organized for the purpose of engaging in criminal activity, any individual criminal acts will be charged against the specific individuals committing the acts. However, if a flash mob is organized to provide cover for criminal activity, or for the purpose of committing a crime, such as in a flash mob robbery, then there could be more criminal liability than just the underlying crime.
Under most state's criminal laws, when two or more individuals plan a crime, it can be considered a criminal conspiracy, which is a separate crime on its own. For example, if the teen mob train robbery was organized for the purpose of committing the robbery, not only could the thefts be criminally punished, but the organizing of the group could be separately punished as a conspiracy.