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Solving the Philly Flash Mob Phenom

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The growing teen flash mob phenomenon in Philadelphia seems to be causing greater and greater concern due to some of the off-shoot, violent behavior exhibited by various participants. Just recently there was yet more mayhem after what seems to have started out as a non-threatening event. And the question everyone seems to be asking is why the violence associated with this particular series of flash mobs by teens of color in this city is growing. One parent was even recently quoted in Philadelphia Weekly asking if the young people involved didn't respect the police in these instances, who were/are they going to respect.

And therein lies an important part in at least beginning to address the issue realistically: if one can't understand the culture and mindset of today's young, techno-savvy user, how can problems be solved?

Further, it's important to get up to speed on this thinking pronto because we're at a crucial time of season change mixed with general upheaval. Unemployment is high and seems to be highest in this country right now among people of color; so it would probably follow that summer jobs and summer paid internships for young people of color might also be quite scare. Although free time is not necessarily linked to getting into trouble, it surely couldn't help those without much direction and self-esteem already. Further, this condition coupled with the fact that Blacks and Latinos out-index in mobile phone usage and access social media more frequently than other demos (according to a recent study released by Florida State University and the primary means through which these sudden collective events are communicated); could all add up to a more heated summer than experienced in Spike Lee's film "Do The Right Thing."

So let's get to it!

There seems to a be a show of force here by people seemingly feeling marginalized and frustrated and using their perceived "voicelessness" to create statements of sort through violence. But there is a huge missed opportunity for exchange when the bulk of aftermath discussion seems to take place over their heads via authorities and mainstream media outlets consisting of middle-age people who try and "figure out" the behavior and largely categorize them as crazy youngsters on random rampages. While certainly not the first time a generation gap has been experienced as condition which can thwart community cohesion, it seems to be exacerbated now by technology and its culture which many of the generation prior to the "Millennials" and late "X-ers" are still getting up to speed, let alone it being a 24/7 lifestyle.

Thus the key here may actually be for the authorities and city policy makers, as uncomfortable as they may be, to put themselves in the place of the rebellious, tech hipster. From this perspective, any number of methods could be used and analyzed for effectiveness such as bringing in trusted, celebrated "ambassadors" from the demographic to speak to their peers via live, hip web events held on respected lifestyle-related sites complete with ability to post simultaneous comments/questions or even mobile marketing campaigns coordinated through strategic alliances with hip hop radio stations with a hot value offer opt-in complete with additional subtle but consistent PSA style-messaging to behave responsibly; rather than solely examining stronger, physical police efforts which the previous generation sees as the way to win.

A frequent security expert on MSNBC and President of BPI Group, LLC, Eric Konohia also added that the old-school approach of curfews and the like in this situation is not the way to go. He suggested that enforcement agencies work more directly with Facebook and Twitter, for example, to create campaigns that would encourage users to report the potential of violent gatherings. He sees it as potentially even being a proactive move on the part of big social brands to protect their businesses, as well. While what he may be suggesting is almost a form of what this writer is coining as "virtual informants", this too could also have its disadvantages; but it shows private security professionals may actually be those who end up leading the way in at least trying to look at new approaches to problem solving in the overall enforcement arena. Konohia also suggests creating budgets for new departments within police precincts to focus on specifically on how best to handle these types of issues related to digital usage.

It seems that crises of this type in our society will only really be able to be properly resolved once people understand and accept that we are living in a new communication era and then act accordingly with the proper tools and even more importantly, the proper mindset. Anything less, and you've already lost the battle.

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