Oregon Public Broadcasting

Multnomah County and police from several regional cities say they've been experimenting with a new policy for teens involved in flash mobs.

Several times in recent years, throngs of kids have popped into convenience shops or malls, often pinching merchandise, sometimes roughing up patrons or staff. These crimes tend to be hard to prosecute, so many suspects are never even cited.

But Multnomah County's Christina McMahan says there's a new coordinated policy between police and prosecutors.

"These incidents, while they seem pretty minor -- a bunch of kids run into a grocery store, grab a candy bar and then leave -- it just takes a moment for something like this to turn into a violent episode and the next thing you know, young people are having the trajectory of their life completely changed because they're getting a Measure 11 adult crime for somebody being hurt," McMahan says.

A few weeks ago, police started prioritizing flash-mob suspects, taking them straight to juvenile detention. McMahan says officials then try to make a fast intervention. Some cases are prosecuted, but, she says, it's better to show kids the harm they've done and keep them from doing it again.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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