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Bill tackles problem you didn’t know you had: Flashmob robberies

Washington’s Senate has taken a stand against flash mobs gone bad.

The phenomenon worrying the Legislature is called a “flash rob.”

Nationwide, cases are growing of people coordinated by social media who descend on a store at the same time and swipe goods with an overwhelmed retail staff unable to stop them, according to National Public Radio report. This is been done at kiosks, convenience stores, groceries, high-end boutiques and department stores, said a Senate Law and Justice Committee report. This type of theft has not been a problem so far in Washington, but it has been reported in Oregon with a Portland television station showing video of a mass theft.

“This is a flash robbery.  … I hope we can nip it in the bud,” said Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, who introduced the bill that the Senate passed 49-0 Tuesday. The bill goes to the House.

“With social media, this could happen almost immediately. A retailer could face 10, 15, 20 people in the store. … The threat of force is there,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

The current law says that a thief with an accomplice can be charged with first-degree organized retail theft if the items are worth more then $5,000 and with second-degree organized retail theft if the items are worth more than $750 — both felonies. The bill creates a new level of organized retail theft if the amount is more than $500 with one of two extra factors — the mass theft was organized by electronic communication, or six or more people were involved. The first offense would be a gross misdemeanor and the second would be a Class C felony.

Sen. Adam Kline, D- Seattle, said this new level of organized retail theft would be a good tool for prosecutors to use in plea bargains.

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