Police shut down LOVE Park Friday afternoon after rumors began spreading that groups of kids planned some type of “flash mob” in the area.
Lt. D.F. Pace of the 9th District said that “10 to 15” teens were arrested for disorderly conduct at the park, which was shut down from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
During that period officers standing on the park steps told passersby not to go into the park at 15th Street and JFK Boulevard and escorted out some people who slipped in unnoticed.
As the city basked in one of the warmest nights of the year so far, police were on guard across Center City and near South Street to keep any roving bands of teens in check.
Social networking helped the Police Department shut down criminal activity near the park before it had a chance to begin.
“We keep tabs on Internet chatter — especially these social networking sites — and we received credible information that flash mob activity was going to form here,” Pace said.
He pulled a printed flier out of his coat pocket advertising an organized meeting as a teenage girl walked past on 15th Street saying, “You can’t do — expletive — in Philly no more.”
Shortly after loading a man into the back of a police van on the corner of 15th and JFK, Lt. James Wilson said, “They want to gather in LOVE Park — we won’t let them. We’re trying to protect the public.”
Just then, a group of teenage girls walked past police making whooping noises, mimicking the sound of police sirens.
By 8:20 p.m. officers allowed some people to walk through the park, but kept close watch to ensure small groups were moving through and not congregating.
This area of Center City has become a trouble spot for police over the past few weeks.
Police presence in Center City has been heightened following two fights that took place along Chestnut and Walnut Streets Thursday evening.
A huge fight broke out at the H&M on 16th and Chestnut, resulting in the arrest of a 17-year-old girl who was issued a citation for disorderly conduct.
Additionally, three teenage boys were arrested after an incident near 17th and Walnut.
At about 5:50 p.m., the three approached a handicapped man and began harassing him before noticing police and running away, police spokeswoman Tanya Little said.
Police caught up with the teens about a half-block away and issued each of them citations for disorderly conduct.
At around 5 p.m. Friday at 16th and Chestnut streets, two police officers stood across from the H&M clothing store, watching as large crowds of teens milled about.
While the after-work crowd quickly shuffled by in the shadow of Liberty Place, the two officers stood facing the store's entrance on Chestnut.
Most groups of people standing still were comprised of teens, some laden with shopping bags, others merely hanging around, or shouting quick conversations across the street to friends passing on the other side.
Little, the police spokeswoman, said the area of Center City likely attracts a younger crowd because of the high concentration of clothing stores and restaurants.
“It’s nothing different than them going to a mall that’s enclosed,” she said.