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Philly police hope cyber monitoring will shut down flash mobs

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Philly police hope cyber monitoring will shut down flash mobs. Dann Cuellar reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on July 19, 2017. (WPVI)

Philadelphia police are hoping to shut down the next potential flash mob before it happens.

In the digital age of social media, police say there are always new things to learn.

And they say there are legitimate reasons why this incident fell through the cracks.
And all the more reason why they need tips from the public to help them fill the void.

Sunday night at the Lonnie Young Rec Center, a crowd estimated at 500 people gather for a 'social media driven' event. Soon neighbors say things get out of hand.

Philadelphia Police Captain Sekou Kinebrew said, "There's about 500 kids. They're drinking. They're being disorderly. and being disrespectful to the police. They're being disrespectful to their self."

Organizers acknowledge they had no permit and police ordered the event shut down, but the crowd didn't want to leave and some began throwing bottles at the officers. Among the questions in the aftermath of the incident is why police did not have a heads up about the large crowd and potential for trouble.

"That incident involved people that were already at that location enjoying the festivities and then it just got a little out of hand and disruptive, and you saw what unfolded from there," Captain Kinebrew said.

As part of their mission, officers at the Delaware Valley's real time crime center monitor a slew of surveillance cameras across the city and region.

They also monitor social media platforms for signs of potential problems like flash mobs that we've seen in recent years causing chaos and disruption.

Police say the shortcomings here are that there were no real-time surveillance cameras at the Lonnie Young Rec Center, and the event was billed as a barbeque and not a 'flash mob' which would have triggered alarms.

"The distinction would be people that planned to disrupt and go from where they are to the place where they're looking to disrupt and then cause some sort of disruption to that activity so there was a distinction with that," Captain Kinebrew said.

In the world of social media, many young people, seem to be plugged in almost 24-7, even when doing TV news interviews.

Snapchat and Instagram are the top favorite platforms.

To be sure, most everyone on social media is just out to have fun and not cause any problems. But police want to monitor where young people are too ensure public safety:

Philadelphia Police Sergeant Eric Gripp said, "Snapchat is still popular among young people but they seem to be moving back to Instagram, so we want to make sure that our presence on Instagram is, you know, we want to be there."

And because police can't catch everything, they encourage tips from the public over the phone or all social media platforms.

The real time crime center will soon reach a major milestone, an innovation that will allow officers to plug in to the real time surveillance cameras of participating businesses and homes to catch crimes before, during and after they happen.
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