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Flash Mobs and Curfew: Police Aim to Monitor, Not Stop, Youth Gatherings

Most youth involved are not there to cause trouble, police chief says

Almost two months have passed since a group of mostly teenagers crowded Coventry and made city officials rethink their curfew laws and strategies to avoid what some call flash mobs.

Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson said officers have only made four arrests in the special 6 p.m. curfew districts — Coventry and Cedar Lee. They are still trying to educate people about the revised laws, and the four arrested were warned before being charged. Others have been arrested who are out past midnight in other areas, however. 

There have not been problems at other community events like nights in the Cedar Lee district or in Coventry Village, he said.

Cleveland Heights has other East side departments including Beachwood, Lyndhurst, Shaker Heights and Euclid, and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Metroparks and the Northeast Ohio Regional FusionCenter to try and curtail what he calls “flash crowds.”

“I use the term flash crowd. I don’t use flash mob because these gatherings are crowds of kids getting together, and the vast majority of them are good kids,” Robertson said.  “But there’s always going to be a few in there, and that’s when it becomes a flash mob and we get some of the bad influences in there … that’s when you have problems.”

Because of this, Robertson said his goal is to not stop the gatherings, but monitor them.

“At one of our concert halls … we were monitoring on Facebook a gathering that was called a birthday kick back, and we realized that there were a lot of kids that were coming to this,” he said, adding that he couldn’t provide specific details about when and where it was. “And we notified the concert hall people that this was happening and we doubled the police that were there … the gathering occurred, but because of our advanced notice, there were no problems. We were able to control it.”

Since the Coventry fair, the detective bureau has been monitoring social media like Facebook and Twitter, and officials heard about large gatherings planned for the Shaker Heights fireworks and before they happened. Robertson said they alerted officials, though they may have heard about it before.

“More than 2,000 were expected to attend a gathering in Bexley Park," he said, which is why they held . “We’re all putting our heads together and putting information into the mix to see what comes out and see how we can help each other.”

Robertson said the flash crowd activity has died down in Cleveland Heights, and he attributes that to the new curfew laws.

But there are other, larger youth issues. 

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