Although surveillance video cameras are now widely used, their effectiveness is questionable. Here, we focus on the challenging task of monitoring crowded events for outbreaks of violence. Such scenes require a human surveyor to monitor multiple video screens, presenting crowds of people in a constantly changing sea of activity, and to identify signs of breaking violence early enough to alert help. With this in mind, we propose the following contributions: (1) We describe a novel approach to real-time detection of breaking violence in crowded scenes. Our method considers statistics of how flow-vector magnitudes change over time. These statistics, collected for short frame sequences, are represented using the VIolent Flows (ViF) descriptor. ViF descriptors are then classified as either violent or non-violent using linear SVM. (2) We present a unique data set of real-world surveillance videos, along with standard benchmarks designed to test both violent/non-violent classification, as well as real-time detection accuracy. Finally, (3) we provide empirical tests, comparing our method to state-of-the-art techniques, and demonstrating its effectiveness.