'Flash rob' like theft in Portland on rise in U.S.

'Flash rob' like theft in Portland on rise in U.S.

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by Mark Hanrahan & Kyle Iboshi, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on April 10, 2012 at 8:15 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 11 at 9:06 AM

PORTLAND -- About 20 young people walked into a Southeast Portland convenience store and reportedly stole about $200 in merchandise before rushing off en masse last weekend.

The flash mob-style robbery was about 11:20 p.m. Saturday at the Gill Mart Chevron at 9138 SE Foster Road.

Investigators said flash mob crimes are on the rise across the country. In fact, police even have a special name for it - "flash rob."

“These kids came like a gang,” said Chevron owner Gurdev Gill.

Gill shared surveillance video of the crime with KGW on Monday in hopes that somebody would recognize the suspects and call police. “It makes me crazy," he said.

The video showed what appeared to be a brief confrontation between the group and a store employee as the teens were leaving the business, where someone tosses a milk crate at the worker.

“At that point these guys (the workers) could say they’re legitimately in fear for their safety,” said Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson.

After viewing the surveillance video, Sgt. Simpson said at the very least it was a theft case, but because of the confrontation that occurred outside, it could be more serious.

Retailers across the country are trying to figure out how to prevent these "flash rob" attacks.  Police said they happen extremely fast, but at least in most cases, there is surveillance video that can help investigators.  A recent survey showed that 1 in 10 retailers have reported being the victim of "flash rob" crimes.

Often, the criminals use Facebook or Twitter to coordinate their shoplifting.

"What's happening is the young people are doing what they've always done but they are finding a new way of doing it via the Internet," said PSU sociology professor Randy Blazak.

Anyone with information about the Southeast Portland robbery was urged to contact Portland police.

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