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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Looting Has Been a Fact of Urban Retailing for Years

     In the summers of 2011 and 2012, gangs of teenage black kids invaded, for the purpose of retail theft, stores in downtown Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Norfolk, Virginia. Groups of 20 or more males and females overwhelmed store security in order to steal expensive merchandise--usually clothing--for resale. These mobs were assembled, mobilized, and coordinated through social media networking.

     These gangs of retail thieves committed a brand of unlawful taking that fell between team shoplifting and robbery (taking by force). It was looting, and reflected a group entitlement mentality as well as total disrespect for the rule of law. This form of urban anarchy should not have been taken so lightly. Civil disorder of this nature drove retailers and other businesses out of downtown America.

     In Chicago, Luke Cho, the owner of a Wicker Park clothing store, became alarmed at 6:40 PM on Saturday, August 14, 2012. Twenty or more black teenagers entered his place of business as a coordinated group. Mr. Cho knew what this meant, he was about to be looted by a so-called "flash mob."

     The gang moved purposefully toward the section of the story that housed the display of Nudie brand jeans. At $200 a pair, these jeans had been in demand since some rap singer was seen wearing them on TV. Mr. Cho, to keep a second wave of looters out of his store, locked the front door, and asked an employee to call 911.

     As the thieves scooped up armloads of jeans in front of alarmed store employees and customers, members of the second wave of looters, who were locked out of the store, banged angrily on the glass. Once the inside thieves had gathered up all the jeans they could carry, then moved toward the front of the establishment, stopping along the way to put other stolen items into their backpacks. After fumbling with the door, one of the looters figured how to unlock it. The door opened, the pack rushed onto the street, and dispersed with more than $3,000 worth of Mr. Cho's merchandise. By the time the first police officer arrived at the scene, it was all over.

     Mr. Cho, when he reviewed the store's surveillance tape, recognized several of the looters as previous shoplifters. He posted the video online, and asked the public to help identify as many thieves as possible. (Victims of flash mobs, aware that the police are indifferent to crimes like this, essentially had to conduct their own investigations.)

     Scott Paulson, a CBS news commentator, wrote an article on the network's website about these retail marauders. Paulson criticized the media, police administrators, and politicians for not calling these mob heists what they really are--race riots. According to Mr. Paulson, "The media, the politicians, and the bulk of the commentators on social issues need to quit being afraid of people like Rev. Al Sharpton." Pointing out that these mobs are comprised of black kids, and that their victims are white, Paulson writes: "If a story is about race, it must be reported as a racial story for the good of the people who could easily be subjected to the next flash mob attack....Protecting a community's image or a segment of society's image should not override the public's need to know and be protected."

     Anyone with half a brain could have foreseen what's happening in our cities today.

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