Are 'flash robs' becoming a trend?

PORTLAND, Ore. - There's a new, worrisome trend in Portland: Flash robs.

It's where groups of teen thieves meet up and swarm stores, stealing items.

Now retailers are trying to sort out the best way to deal with these young thieves who come in and ransack the stores.

One of the stores hit was the Nordstrom in the Lloyd Center in Northeast Portland late last week. A group of boys came in, stuffed clothes into bags and ran. They had their faces covered and wore hoodies.

"We have a group of about 10 juvenile males who just flash mobbed ... stole merchandise from us right now," a Nordstrom security officer told a 911 dispatcher Friday night. "There's so many of them, we can't stop any of them."

Surveillance video of the Nordstrom robbery has yet to be released.

The weekend before, another group hit a Chevron convenience store in the southeast part of town. In that case, surveillance video captured the teens storming the store.

Sam Nigro owns Loss Prevention Group in Woodland. He helps retailers develop and implement loss-prevention plans.

On Monday morning, he said a client called with questions on how to best protect customers and staff if these 'flash robs' happen.

Nigro said they can't lock the doors and keep people in, but they can get good video. In videos posted on YouTube, the young thieves don't seem to be hiding their faces.

"There's a great chance that law enforcement are going to be able to identify at least one of those people, and if in fact they identify one person, that individual will probably expose everyone else to try to save his skin. So it's a very high risk, pretty ignorant crime," he said.

Nigro said the kids don't seem to need what they're stealing. He believes it's the thrill and excitement of seeing themselves all over TV and the Internet that motivates them.

While retailers won't reveal security strategies, they are focusing on keeping customers and workers safe.

The Internet also seems to be how these kids are organizing the 'flash robs.' They are getting friends together through Twitter and Facebook.

It's also not an isolated problem. A new survey says one in 10 retailers has been hit in a flash-rob fashion, and the YouTube videos show stores being hit in Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.