Flash rob

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A flash rob, also known as a multiple offender crime or flash mob robbery, is an organized form of theft in which a group of participants enter a retail shop or convenience store en masse and steal goods and other items.[1][2][3] Typically, store workers and employees in these cases quickly become overwhelmed by the large number of participants and are therefore unable to stop the theft.[4][5]

The National Retail Federation does not classify these crimes as "flash mobs" but rather "multiple offender crimes" that utilize "flash mob tactics".[6][7] In a report, the NRF noted, "multiple offender crimes tend to involve groups or gangs of juveniles who already know each other, which does not earn them the term "flash mob"."[7]


The term often used by the media for this type of event is "flash rob", which originates from flash mobs,[4] where a group of people assemble quickly, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act, and then disperse.

In Chile this kind of robbery is known as "turbazo".[8]

Flash rob dynamics[edit]

Flash robs operate using speed and sheer numbers in order to intimidate any resistance and complete the act before police can respond. While often viewed as a form of theft or looting (the illegal taking of items), these crimes more closely fit the definition of robbery because the large crowd creates an implied threat of violence should employees or bystanders attempt to intervene. Many investigations into these robberies have shown that they are planned ahead of time using social media, and the participants do not all necessarily know each other personally.

United States[edit]

Flash robs have occurred in large cities such as Chicago, Illinois[9] Portland, Oregon,[10] Houston, Texas,[11] and Jacksonville, Florida, along with smaller cities, such as Germantown, Maryland.[2][12]


Brazil has seen mass flash robberies since at least the early 1990s. In a phenomenon known as arrastão (trawling), mobs will steal money, telephone, watches, rings, bags and sometimes even victim’s clothing. The most infamous case of trawling took place on 18 October 1992, on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, when hundreds of young Afro-Brazilians ran together in a mass to rob beach goers.[13][14]

As a result of mass flash robberies, shopping malls in Brazil have heavy security, and typically prevent large crowds of young Afro-Brazilians from entering the private property, which has been called a form of soft-apartheid.[15] In 2013, a rolezinho (strolling) protest movement arose amongst Afro-Brazilian youth, where thousands of young people coordinated their simultaneous entry to normally inaccessible upscale shopping malls.[16] In some rolezinhos, the police were called and crowds were dispersed with tear gas and flash grenades.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murphy, Pat (August 16, 2011). "7-11 flash mob: Maryland police investigate store robbery (Video)". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Justin Jouvenal; Dan Morse (August 15, 2011). "Police probe Germantown flash-mob thefts". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  3. ^ Erin Skarda (12 May 2011). "Flash Mobs Turned Criminal: The Rise of Flash Robberies". TIME. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
  4. ^ a b Dade, Corey (May 26, 2011). "Flash Mobs Aren't Just For Fun Anymore". NPR. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Vaughan, Annie (June 18, 2011). "Teenage Flash Mob Robberies on the Rise". Fox News. FOX News Network, LLC. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  6. ^ Jeffrey Ian Ross (2013). Encyclopedia of Street Crime in America. Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412999571. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
  7. ^ a b "Multiple Offender Crimes" (PDF). National Retail Federation. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-06-19.
  8. ^ "Turbazo": La nueva forma de robar en farmacias y supermercados
  9. ^ Jargon, Julie; Brat, Ilan (June 9, 2011). "Chicago Police Brace for 'Flash Mob' Attacks". The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  10. ^ Hanrahan , Mark; Iboshi, Kyle (April 10, 2012). "'Flash rob' like theft in Portland on rise in U.S." KGW News (Portland, Oregon). Archived from the original on April 12, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  11. ^ Azad, Sonia (December 9, 2011). "Flash mob robbery caught on camera at Galleria area store". KTRK-TV (Houston, Texas). Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  12. ^ "Police Investigate Silver Spring 7-Eleven Mass Theft". Media Services Division, Montgomery County, Maryland. November 21, 2011. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  13. ^ "Sociólogo vê alarme exagerado com arrastões no Rio de Janeiro". BBC Brasil.
  14. ^ "Arrastão na praia - Rio - Copacabana - Ipanema", Youtube, 18 October 1992.
  15. ^ Martín, María (12 January 2014). "¿Apartheid en los centros comerciales de São Paulo?". El País. Grupo PRISA. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  16. ^ Gomes, Camila (13 January 2014). "Dez jovens serão intimados por 'rolezinho' no shopping Itaquera, em SP". Folha de S. Paulo. Grupo Folha. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  17. ^ "Polícia usa bombas de gás e balas de borracha em ação contra 'rolezinho'". G1. Organizações Globo. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.