CUR­FEW AT THE MALL:

Un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors clear out un­com­plain­ingly

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Mered­ith Cohn mered­ith.cohn@balt­sun.com

A new pol­icy aimed at pro­mot­ing a more “fam­i­lyfriendly” at­mos­phere at Tow­son Town Cen­ter by ban­ning un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors af­ter 5 p.m. on Fri­days and Satur­days got off to a mostly seam­less start Fri­day evening. Many seemed to have heard about the pol­icy, and groups of teens who nor­mally spend their week­end nights hang­ing out at the mall headed to the ex­its.

A new pol­icy aimed at pro­mot­ing a more “fam­ily-friendly” at­mos­phere at Tow­son Town Cen­ter by ban­ning un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors af­ter 5 p.m. got off to a mostly seam­less start Fri­day evening.

Many peo­ple seemed to have heard about the pol­icy, and groups of teens who nor­mally spend their week­end nights hang­ing out at the mall headed to the ex­its as the 5 o’clock hour ap­proached, with only a bit of grous­ing.

On her way out, one Notre Dame Prep stu­dent said: “We’re good.”

Se­cu­rity was dis­patched to let other teens know about the cur­few, and of­fi­cers, some with dogs, were sta­tioned at 19 en­trances and around the mall to check iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Jes­sica Iheana­cho and Ayanna Dorsey, both 18 and Tow­son Uni­ver­sity stu­dents, asked for wrist­bands iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as adults so they could con­tinue shop­ping.

“I guess I un­der­stand why they did it, but if I was 17, I’d be up­set,” said Dorsey. “I used to come when I was in mid­dle school, but now that I’m older, the num­ber of kids is the rea­son I stopped com­ing. It was just too crowded.”

Mall of­fi­cials be­gan an­nounce­ments at 4 p.m. that those17 and younger not ac­com­pa­nied by an adult would have to leave at 5 p.m. The cur­few is in ef­fect only on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day evenings, though mall man­agers said they are con­sid­er­ing ex­tend­ing the cur­few to other busy times, such as around Christ­mas.

Un­der the pol­icy, a par­ent or adult can ac­com­pany up to four mi­nors.

Lisa Bise­nius, the mall’s se­nior gen­eral man­ager, was hand­ing out Star­bucks gift cards to fam­i­lies as they walked around, a thank-you for giv­ing the mall a chance dur­ing the evenings when the new cur­few is in ef­fect.

More than an hour into the new cur­few, Bise­nius said se­cu­rity of­fi­cers had turned away only a cou­ple of groups of teens. She planned to get an of­fi­cial count by to­day of those turned away.

She said she be­lieves fam­i­lies were en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence with­out large groups of un­ac­com­pa­nied teens. “We’re hop­ing we see a lot more fam­i­lies here in the evenings,” she said.

Bise­nius noted that un­ac­com­pa­nied teens are only re­stricted for a to­tal of eight hours over two nights out of 73 hours the mall is open each week — though they hap­pen to be the most pop­u­lar times for youths.

Of­fi­cers could be seen ask­ing young peo­ple for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at one en­trance near a bus stop. Dur­ing what would have been a busy time af­ter 6 p.m., only one group of three teens was turned away. They left af­ter hear­ing about the new pol­icy.

Of­fi­cers wrapped pur­ple pa­per wrist- bands on those who could show they were old enough to en­ter.

Fan Jones was es­cort­ing her 11-year-old son, Dar­ryl Adams, past a small col­lec­tion of se­cu­rity guards and said she was glad about the cur­few.

“I wouldn’t al­low my son to be at the mall with­out me at 11,” said the Tow­son mother. “And when he’s older, he’ll come to the mall with money to pur­chase some­thing. This is not a re­cre­ational ad­ven­ture.”

Dar­ryl said he gets dropped off at movies some­times but doesn’t walk around the mall with­out an adult.

Meg Darrell of Tow­son, who hadn’t heard about the cur­few, was at the mall Fri­day evening be­cause her teenage daugh­ter needed a dress. She said years ago, she knew some­one who had been harmed by a teen at the mall, and her chil­dren knew she would typ­i­cally take them there only on Sat­ur­day and Sun­day morn­ings.

“I may re­think my pol­icy be­cause of this” cur­few, she said, as she es­corted her daugh­ter and a friend off to shop.

Tow­son Town Cen­ter is the lat­est busi­ness to im­pose a cur­few on un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors. Dis­cus­sions about the move be­gan af­ter an in­ci­dent in De­cem­ber in which young peo­ple threw rocks at po­lice of­fi­cers.

ALGERINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Mall se­cu­rity su­per­vi­sor Paul Bartelt puts wrist­bands on Ayanna Dorsey, 18, left, and Jes­sica Iheana­cho, 18, both Tow­son Uni­ver­sity stu­dents, at Tow­son Town Cen­ter.

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