A flash rob, also known as a multiple offender crime or flash mob robbery, is an organized form of theft in which a group of participants enter a retail shop or convenience store en masse and steal goods and other items.[1][2][3] Typically, store workers and employees in these cases quickly become overwhelmed by the large number of participants and are unable to stop the theft.[4][5]

The National Retail Federation does not classify these crimes as "flash mobs" but rather "multiple offender crimes" that utilize "flash mob tactics".[6][7] In a report, the NRF noted, "multiple offender crimes tend to involve groups or gangs of juveniles who already know each other, which does not earn them the term 'flash mob'."[7]


The term often used by the media for this type of event is "flash rob", which originates from flash mobs,[4] where a group of people assemble quickly, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act, and then disperse.

In Chile this kind of robbery is known as turbazo.[8]

Flash rob dynamicsEdit

Flash robs operate using speed and sheer numbers in order to intimidate any resistance and complete the act before police can respond. While often viewed as a form of theft or looting (the illegal taking of items), these crimes more closely fit the definition of robbery because the large crowd creates an implied threat of violence should employees or bystanders attempt to intervene. Many investigations into these robberies have shown that they are planned ahead of time using social media, and the participants do not all necessarily know each other personally.

United StatesEdit

Flash robs have occurred in places such as Chicago, Illinois[9] Portland, Oregon,[10] Houston, Texas,[11] and Jacksonville, Florida, Germantown, Maryland,[2][12] San Francisco, California,[13] Walnut Creek, California[13] and Beverly Hills, California.[13]


Brazil has seen mass flash robberies since at least the early 1990s. In a phenomenon known as arrastão (trawling), mobs will steal money, telephone, watches, rings, bags and sometimes even victim's clothing. The most infamous case of trawling took place on 18 October 1992, on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, when hundreds of young Afro-Brazilians ran together in a mass to rob beach goers.[14][15]

As a result of mass flash robberies, shopping malls in Brazil have heavy security, and typically prevent large crowds of young Afro-Brazilians from entering the private property, which has been called a form of soft-apartheid.[16] In 2013, a rolezinho (strolling) protest movement arose amongst Afro-Brazilian youth, where thousands of young people coordinated their simultaneous entry to normally inaccessible upscale shopping malls.[17] In some rolezinhos, the police were called and crowds were dispersed with tear gas and flash grenades.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Murphy, Pat (16 August 2011). "7-11 flash mob: Maryland police investigate store robbery (Video)". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b Justin Jouvenal; Dan Morse (15 August 2011). "Police probe Germantown flash-mob thefts". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  3. ^ Erin Skarda (12 May 2011). "Flash Mobs Turned Criminal: The Rise of Flash Robberies". Time. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b Dade, Corey (26 May 2011). "Flash Mobs Aren't Just For Fun Anymore". NPR. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  5. ^ Vaughan, Annie (18 June 2011). "Teenage Flash Mob Robberies on the Rise". FOX News. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  6. ^ Jeffrey Ian Ross (2013). Encyclopedia of Street Crime in America. Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412999571. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Multiple Offender Crimes" (PDF). National Retail Federation. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  8. ^ "'Turbazo': La nueva forma de robar en farmacias y supermercados"
  9. ^ Jargon, Julie; Brat, Ilan (9 June 2011). "Chicago Police Brace for 'Flash Mob' Attacks". The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
  10. ^ Hanrahan, Mark; Iboshi, Kyle (10 April 2012). "'Flash rob' like theft in Portland on rise in U.S." KGW News (Portland, Oregon). Archived from the original on 12 April 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  11. ^ Azad, Sonia (9 December 2011). "Flash mob robbery caught on camera at Galleria area store". KTRK-TV (Houston, Texas). Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Police Investigate Silver Spring 7-Eleven Mass Theft". Media Services Division, Montgomery County, Maryland. 21 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  13. ^ a b c "A new breed of brazen takeover robbers hitting California luxury retailers, raising ire". Los Angeles Times. 23 November 2021. Retrieved 20 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "Sociólogo vê alarme exagerado com arrastões no Rio de Janeiro". BBC Brasil.
  15. ^ "Arrastão na praia - Rio - Copacabana - Ipanema", YouTube, 18 October 1992.
  16. ^ Martín, María (12 January 2014). "¿Apartheid en los centros comerciales de São Paulo?". El País. Grupo PRISA. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  17. ^ Gomes, Camila (13 January 2014). "Dez jovens serão intimados por 'rolezinho' no shopping Itaquera, em SP". Folha de S. Paulo. Grupo Folha. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  18. ^ "Polícia usa bombas de gás e balas de borracha em ação contra 'rolezinho'". G1. Organizações Globo. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.