Authorities are searching for a tech-savvy mob of teens who used online social networking sites to terrorize a South Philadelphia neighborhood Saturday night, police said.
More than 100 youths arranged via unspecified Internet-based means to meet on South Street near Broad about midnight, swarming the area and leading to a melee that ended only after the mob had hijacked a taxi, pulled a woman from her car and assaulted her, and ransacked a convenience store, police said.
Several people received minor injuries, including the taxi driver and the woman, a paralegal with the District Attorney's Office, police said.
A Daily News editor who was riding in a nearby taxi watched as the tide of youths swayed in different directions along South Street near 12th, as members of the group held cell phones to their ears or sent text messages.
"They were running over cars and running in front of moving cars," the staffer said.
As the taxi continued south on 12th Street, he saw a Liberty cab smashed into a light pole at Fitzwater Street.
Police say that that was the cab that the mob had taken over minutes before.
The driver, who was not identified, was driving near 12th and South streets when a group approached his taxi, police said.
A confrontation ensued and the driver was pulled from the vehicle and hit repeatedly, police said.
Meanwhile, another group of males jumped into the cab and took off, hitting a car a few blocks away, injuring two people inside, and crashing the cab into the light pole.
The taxi driver was treated for minor injuries at Jefferson University Hospital.
"I heard he got it pretty bad because he refused to pick up customers, they were pretty rowdy," said Rich Maresco, a dispatcher with the cab company who was unsuccessful in trying to reach the driver yesterday.
"He didn't get a chance to press his emergency button."
Maresco said that other cab drivers were also attacked - one with a stick at Broad and Christian streets - and their cabs also sustained damage.
Authorities didn't report any other incident involving taxi drivers or their vehicles.
At one point, members of the mob flocked to the A Plus mini-mart at the Sunoco gas station at Broad and Catharine streets, according to surveillance video.
In the video, an employee is shown straightening items on racks as three teens, two boys and one girl calmly enter the store and head for the beverages section.
Moments go by and the teens continue to mill around. One of them stuffs candy into his pockets as the girl blocks him from the view of the employee, who had moved back behind the glass-encased counter.
More youths entered the store and within moments, more than 20 teens had flooded the store, knocking over racks and stuffing their pockets with stolen goods before running outside.
Jesus Fernandes, an employee who was not at the store during the looting, estimated the loss to be upwards of $3,000.
"Thank God he went inside," he said yesterday of his co-worker. "It's terrible."
Nearby, a woman who police say works as a paralegal in the D.A.'s office and her passenger were pulled from her Jeep and assaulted. Police said that she was punched in the face and that her purse was stolen.
Last weekend, police reported that some members of the same group were arrested for disorderly conduct in the same area, but no arrests were reported this weekend.
During the winter months, police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said, a smaller group believed to be involved in Saturday's incident convened at 40th and Walnut streets on the weekends, although no serious incidents were reported.
But the crowd, through unspecified online social-networking sites, continued to communicate and, as weather conditions improved, migrated to South Philly, he said.
"It's taken new dynamics," Vanore said of the clan. "We're not going to tolerate it." He said that police will beef up patrols in that area. *