LOS ANGELES (CBS) — They seem to be popping up everywhere lately: mass gatherings known as “flash mobs” that are organized via social networking sites to perform acts of entertainment, dancing or other artistic expression.

But as KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports, the LAPD wants to put a stop to any violent or criminal elements that may turn a public gathering into an unlawful assembly.

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“This is all new,” said LAPD Officer Lyle Knight. “With social media, it’s evolving, and we try to evolve with the upcoming technology.”

The department’s newly-launched Internet Unit wants to head off any potential “flash robs” by using public domain searches like Google, Bing and other sites to determine if there is a risk of criminal activity.

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“People will gather at a 7-11 or a department store and it could be 50 to hundreds of people and they just go in there and take what they can,” said Knight.

Not only does the Internet Unit search online for possible illegal activity, but it also relies on tips from the public.

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Back on July 28, traffic on and around Hollywood Boulevard was disrupted as hundreds of fans gathered in a “flash mob” to watch an impromptu performance from DJ Kaskade. Police were ultimately called in to disperse the crowd.