Illinois House Targets 'Flash Mob' Violence

May 10, 2013

The Illinois House approved legislation Friday intended to crack down on so-called "flash mobs." It allows a longer prison sentence for anyone who uses social media to organize an attack.

The biggest headlines for flash mob attacks in recent years have been for groups of young people descending on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, attacking and robbing pedestrians. But Rep. Christian Mitchell, a Democrat from the south side of Chicago, says there have been other, less-publicized crimes that relied on social media.

"What is important here, is that we don't have the O.G.s like we used to," Mitchell says. In place of those O.G.s — Original Gangsters — are smaller, splintered street gangs, "and they are organizing using Twitter and social media. So in addition to protecting our businesses on Michigan Avenue, this gives law enforcement the ability to help change that incentive structure on the street."

The legislation would let judges impose tougher penalties on anyone who uses electronic communication to commit mob action. Opponents worry kids could be caught up unfairly, and say Illinois already has mob-action laws that cover this kind of thing.

The measure already passed the Senate, so the 102-6 House vote sends it to Gov. Pat Quinn.