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'Flash mob' crimes: How good are police at tracking down culprits?

While the ability to track 'flash mob' lawbreakers on Twitter and other social media platforms offers a powerful, futuristic vision for policing, real-life police response has so far been more Sherlock Holmes and less Blade Runner.

In a May 18 file photo, Chicago police officers are a presence along Michigan Ave. in Chicago. Can police be effective in a 'flash mob' age?

Richard A. Chapman/Chicago Sun-Times/AP/File

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When a massive flash mob rampaged outside the Wisconsin State Fair injuring 11 fairgoers on Aug. 4, old-fashioned police work quickly led to the arrests of 31 people.

When 25 teens looted a 7-Eleven on Aug. 13, outside Germantown, Md., local police posted a surveillance video on YouTube and visited a local high school with pictures of the perpetrators. Within days, 15 of the 26 suspects were identified.

And just this week, two teens were found guilty of orchestrating a "flash mob" style beating in Philadelphia that left one man with a broken jaw.

"Downtown is not terror town," Judge Kevin Dougherty admonished. "Philadelphia will not be a laughingstock because of a few individuals who decide to hunt human beings and laugh about it."

Judge Dougherty is not alone in his outrage as cities across the US struggle with how to prevent and prosecute a new spate of violence organized over social media.

And while the ability to track perpetrators and even potential lawbreakers on Twitter and other social media platforms offers a powerful, futuristic vision for policing, the real-life police reaction to the "flash mob" phenomenon has so far been more Sherlock Holmes and less Blade Runner.

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