Plenty when it comes to terms like “flash mob.” Especially in regard to the recent nighttime gatherings of urban youth on the Country Club Plaza.
Take Saturday night when between 100 and 125 or so “black kids” wandered the Plaza and surrounding area – two were arrested – one for fighting, another for possession of a gun.
“Violent Teen Flash Mob” was how Tony’s Kansas City foolishly described the action.
Hold it right there…
Based upon my discussions with Kansas City Police and others, not a single word in the above description is “accurate.”
As opposed to the quite common gatherings of dozens of black youth who roam the Plaza on weekends – both day and night – on a regular basis. Often as they make their way to and from Cinemark’s Palace on the Plaza movie theater and/or at Mill Creek Park near the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain.
“I don’t think we ever called it a ‘flash mob,’ ” says a KC police spokeswoman. “We would not classify it as a ‘flash mob.’ It’s just a gathering of youths.”
As for TKC’s misuse of the term, “Oh, he tends to sensationalize everything,” the spokeswoman quips.
Secondly, a gathering of 100 to 125 youth spread across the entire Plaza – having observed similar crowds – is hardly what most people would call a mob. And with only two arrests, hardly “a disorderly or riotous crowd of people” or “a crowd bent on or engaged in lawless violence.”
Despite the fact that as anyone who frequents the Plaza knows, the upscale shopping enclave tends to be more than a little uncomfortable with the presence of practically any black kids.
Not even the word “teenagers” is really accurate; police used the word “kids” to describe the crowd which obviously included teenagers. Yet outside of two arrests, the only difficulties described were “some traffic issues.”
Traffic issues on the Plaza? Get out of town!
Seriously, people. I spoke with comedy impresario Craig Glazer this morning, who after reading TKC’s description of the “violent flash mob” and speaking to a friend described the scene to me as having involved around 2,000 unruly black kids.
Naturally Kansas City Star columnist Mary Sanchez couldn’t let the opportunity pass – even though she apparently wasn’t even there – to offer up another naive solution to the urban youth gatherings on the Plaza.
“Get to the parents…” Sanchez demanded. “Track down every adult who was in any way responsible for that child’s access to the gun. Prosecute them if possible.”
Easier said than done, says Sgt. Roy Murry of the KCPD’s crimes against children unit.
“I can tell you that unless the parent can be proved to be aware of a juvenile’s actions, we’re not going to go after the parent,” Murry says. “Not criminally – only if the parent can be proved to be aware of what the child is doing, and even that’s a stretch.”
And good luck tracking down who sold the kid a gun.
There are a number of reasons not to run around arresting kid’s parents, Murry says.
“First of all, it’s probably going to have to be a city charge and you’d be tying up the courts,” he explains. “I can see the pros and cons, but there’s probably going to be a lot more cons.”
Starting with, “The juvenile is the one committing the crime” – not the parent – Murry says.
“I mean, if somebody’s kid does something wrong, you can’t go after the parents,” says criminal attorney David Scott Whinery, Esquire. “People don’t know what their kids are doing. That’s just a knee-jerk reaction.”
So yes, it’s far more fun, sexy and sensationalistic to describe what’s become in recent years a typical, small gathering of black youths on the Plaza as a “violent flash mob.”
And yes, it’s easy to read a police chief’s Twitter (when you’re not even on the scene) and pontificate on how law should be enforced.
But how about a little accurate “reporting” and maybe some educated suggestions on how to improve matters by some of the experts actually involved in the situation?