WASHINGTON - It has become a familiar scene in the District – flash mob robberies or pack thefts carried out by dozens of teenagers as they raid stores and steal items inside.
The latest incident happened over the weekend at a 7-Eleven store in the Barracks Row area. Nearly 30 teenagers stormed into the convenience store, robbed it and eventually led to a police pursuit into the Metro tunnels afterwards. This same store was hit by a pack of teenagers once before earlier this year.
In the Capitol Hill neighborhood, there have been a total of 12 robberies of this type at 7-Eleven stores since this summer. It's not a new fad as these flash mob robberies have been happening in D.C. as far back as 2013 – an incident captured on camera.
“I'm not saying you need to lock up somebody for stealing a Snickers bar,” said Denise Krepp, an ANC commissioner in Ward 6. “But I do believe that if you have intent and you are intending to go to a 7-Eleven and steal something, and you have asked all of your friends to come with you and you are going to steal something, that something should happen. What 7-Eleven has told me is that nothing is happening. They are spending a lot of time working with MPD to try to address the problem. People keep stealing over and over and over from them.”
But how many of these cases are being prosecuted? D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General said such a "granular stat" on the number of robbery or theft prosecutions of 7-Eleven establishments could not be provided to accommodate for this story's deadline.
“You have to own up to what you are doing,” said Krepp. “You have to own to the fact that you are stealing from somebody else.”
Krepp said she does not know why these types of cases are not being prosecuted and “that troubles me because that sends the signal to the 7-Elevens in the world, it sends a signal to the small businesses that theft is to be tolerated. That you are supposed to suck it up and assume it's a business expense. It's not a business expense.”
A spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General said in a statement:
"Confidentiality laws preclude us from commenting on any specific juvenile case. But, generally speaking, our office will bring charges for robbery and other violent offenses in any case where the evidence presented to our office supports the charge; where the evidence was obtained properly; and where there are witnesses to the crime willing to cooperate."
It should be noted that the majority of these cases are not being classified as robberies, but rather as thefts, which is a lesser offense and carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail in the District of Columbia. However, the minimum penalty for robbery is two years and it has a maximum penalty of 15 years.