Apparently the flash mob community wasn't riled up enough to descend upon a D.C. council committee that took up a bill Thursday seeking to increase the punishment for those who participate in them.
The bill proposes grouping the total theft that occurs during a flash mob and charging that against eveyone who participates in the mob.
Currently, individuals are only charged for what they steal. The upgrade greatly increases the chances of individuals being charged with felony theft instead of a misdemeanor theft, increasing the possible punishment to upt to five years in prison.
The D.C. Public Defenders Office testified against the bill, sponsored by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. Laura Hankins argued that laws were already in place to charge flash mobbers with conspiracy and with aiding and abetting.
But those charges would still only apply at the misdemeanor level, Mendelson said. He added that the owner whose shop has been raided has suffered total losses that would raise the event to the level of a felony if committed by a single person. D.C. prosecutors agreed.
"Often the value of items stolen by any individual are small ... while the losses to store owners may be high," said Andrew Fois, an attorney in the D.C. Office of the Attorney General. "The punishment is not as severe ... and in fact current law does little to deter [a flash mob]."
Mendelson also said he had doubts that prosecutors could gain any traction charging flash mobbers with conspiracy based on the lack of organization beyond social media usage.
"They don't know what each other is taking, they may not even know everybody in the group," Mendelson said. "It's by sheer volume that they're able to overtake the employees. But beyond that there's no organization. It's disorganized and yet organized at the same time."