Tow­son mall to re­strict teens

Those un­der 18 will have to be ac­com­pa­nied by adults on Fri­day, Satur­day nights

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Pamela Wood and Tim Pru­dente

Teenagers who hang out at Tow­son Town Cen­ter on the week­ends might need to find a new spot af­ter the re­gional mall an­nounced it will ban teens on Fri­day and Satur­day nights un­less they are ac­com­pa­nied by an adult.

Mall of­fi­cials said Thurs­day that start­ing Sept. 16, those younger than 18 will not be al­lowed in the mall af­ter 5 p.m. on Fri­days and Satur­days with­out a par­ent or “su­per­vis­ing adult” 21 or older.

The pol­icy fol­lows com­plaints from res­i­dents and elected of­fi­cials about young peo­ple con­gre­gat­ing at the mall, es­pe­cially af­ter it closes at 9 p.m.

Last De­cem­ber, a group of rowdy young peo­ple clashed with po­lice, with some throw­ing rocks at of­fi­cers. A 16-year-old girl was charged as a ju­ve­nile with sec­ond-de­gree as­sault on a po­lice of­fi­cer. Politi­cians called on the mall to in­sti­tute a cur­few for teens.

Lisa Bise­nius, se­nior gen­eral man­ager for Tow­son Town Cen­ter, ac­knowl­edged that there have been “oc­ca­sional” in­ci­dents with young peo­ple that mar the mall’s at­tempt to pro­mote a fam­ily-friendly im­age.

“We’re help­ing keep a more con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment,” Bise­nius said. “We’re tak­ing a look at brand­ing Tow­son as a much more fam­ily-friendly en­vi­ron­ment, and this is a piece of the puz­zle.”

Dozens of malls around the coun­try have im­ple­mented sim­i­lar poli­cies, in­clud­ing Mon­dawmin Mall in Baltimore, The Av­enue at White Marsh and the Mall

of Amer­ica in Min­nesota, as malls en­deavor to walk a fine line be­tween en­cour­ag­ing all-im­por­tant teen spend­ing and main­tain­ing a pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment for other shop­pers.

“I think they’re go­ing to lose a lot of money,” said An­gela Shet­tle, 18, who ar­rived at the mall Thurs­day af­ter­noon with her 17-year-old boyfriend, who was get­ting a hair­cut.

The new rules mean “no more get­ting a bite to eat on Fri­day nights,” said Shet­tle, who doesn’t think the pol­icy will last. Oth­ers wel­comed the rules. Su­san Rus­sell said she was fright­ened at the mall around Christ­mas­time when teens were gath­ered, sit­ting on rail­ings in the food court and chant­ing.

“I picked up my kids and left; I had two small chil­dren,” she said. “They don’t be­long there. There’s too many shenani­gans.”

Rus­sell said she’s been shop­ping at Tow­son Town Cen­ter since it opened.

“The last two years, it’s ex­tremely worse,” said Rus­sell, who now avoids the mall and shops across the street. “I’m very dis­ap­pointed in it.”

Kristin Nieber­lein, who works in an of­fice across Du­laney Val­ley Road from the mall, said she’s felt un­easy in the even­ings, but never threat­ened.

“Fri­day nights are very rowdy, and large groups of kids,” she said. “I just re­mem­ber be­ing like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ ”

Peter McKibben, as­sis­tant man­ager of Record & Tape Traders across from the mall, said the mall’s pol­icy is “a re­ally bold move.”

But he didn’t think busi­ness.

“We see a lot of kids brows­ing but not nec­es­sar­ily spend­ing money,” he said. “As long as mom and dad are with them, that’s who’s spend­ing the money.”

Bise­nius said she and cor­po­rate of­fi­cials with Chicago-based Gen­eral Growth Prop­er­ties, which owns the mall, de­cided to en­act the “parental guid­ance re­quired” pol­icy af­ter get­ting in­put from elected of­fi­cials and busi­ness lead­ers.

“It’s im­pact­ing the com­mu­nity of Tow­son. We wanted to make sure ev­ery­one is aligned,” she said.

Baltimore County Coun­cil­man David Marks was among those who called for a youth cur­few at the mall fol­low­ing De­cem­ber’s rock-throw­ing in­ci­dent.

“Teenagers are still wel­come at the mall — they just have to be es­corted by their par­ents,” said Marks, a Perry Hall Repub­li­can.

“The idea is to pro­mote bet­ter safety for ev­ery­one.”

Baltimore County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin it would hurt Kamenetz called the new pol­icy a good idea. The fa­ther of two sons, in­clud­ing one who just turned 15, he said he thinks teens mainly want to hang out at the mall on Satur­day af­ter­noons.

Sim­i­lar rules have “worked well in a lot of places in Baltimore County. No rea­son why it shouldn’t be con­sis­tent at Tow­son Town Cen­ter,” said Kamenetz, a Demo­crat.

More and more places are im­ple­ment­ing sim­i­lar poli­cies.

The Cine­mark movie theater at nearby Tow­son Square bans any­one younger than 17 with­out an ac­com­pa­ny­ing par­ent af­ter 9 p.m. — and par­ents must watch the same movie as their child af­ter 9 p.m.

The Av­enue at White Marsh, an open-air re­tail cen­ter, has “youth es­cort pol­icy” that says any­one younger than 17 must be ac­com­pa­nied by an adult af­ter 9 p.m. ev­ery day, and Hunt Val­ley Towne Cen­ter, an­other open-air cen­ter, in­sti­tuted a ban on un­ac­com­pa­nied teens af­ter 9 p.m. in 2005.

In Anne Arun­del County, Marley Sta­tion Mall in Glen Burnie for­bids teens younger than 16 to be in the mall with­out an adult any time af­ter 5 p.m.

Gen­eral Growth Prop­er­ties’ Mon­dawmin Mall in West Baltimore does not al­low any­one younger than 18 to be in the mall with­out an adult be­tween 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days.

But the com­pany’s other sub­ur­ban Baltimore malls — White Marsh Mall and The Mall in Columbia — do not have poli­cies about un­ac­com­pa­nied teenagers. De­ci­sions on youth poli­cies are made on a mall-by-mall ba­sis, said Bise­nius, who pre­vi­ously man­aged at White Marsh.

Un­der the Tow­son pol­icy, the mall will make an­nounce­ments over loud­speak­ers start­ing at 4 p.m. on Fri­days and Satur­days to give young peo­ple time to leave the mall. Adults will be al­lowed to su­per­vise up to four teens af­ter 5 p.m.

Se­cu­rity guards and off-duty po­lice will be posted at the mall’s 19 en­trances to check iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. The mall is hir­ing more se­cu­rity of­fi­cers to en­force the rules, Bise­nius said.

Young peo­ple who are older than17 will be given the op­tion of wear­ing a wrist­band when they are in the mall af­ter 5 p.m. Teenagers who work at stores in the mall will also be given wrist­bands.

The mall’s two depart­ment stores — Macy’s and Nord­strom — have the op­tion of fol­low­ing the pol­icy. Macy’s has agreed to the pol­icy, but the mall is wait­ing for a de­ci­sion from Nord­strom, Bise­nius said.

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