Reports of “Utter Chaos” Draw Fresh Attention to Teen Bans at Malls

A series of recent brawls at malls nationwide have led some owners to consider banning unsupervised teens. But a spokesman for an association representing malls says that disruptions by teens aren't happening more than usual—they're just getting more attention.

If you’ve been paying attention to your local news lately, you may have heard about a little post-Christmas ruckus at your local mall. Some examples:

More than 1,000 teens reportedly participated in a series of fights at a Pittsburgh-area mall the day after Christmas. Monroeville Mall closed early as four area police agencies responded to distress calls.

In Independence, Kansas, a couple of hundred young kids became disruptive. Some fighting broke out as teens left Independence Center just as police arrived.

Teens were arrested at malls near Sacramento, California; Buffalo, New York; and Beachwood, Ohio. A YouTube video of a brawl in Beachwood has been viewed thousands of times.

And just last weekend, fights broke out at Franklin Park Mall in Toledo, Ohio, and at Castleton Square in Indianapolis. “It was just utter chaos,”  a perfume-kiosk clerk at the Indiana mall said.

Rising Talk of Bans

Could this be a wave signaling an increase in disorderly conduct involving teens at American malls? Or can it just be attributed to free time over the winter break?

The International Council of Shopping Centers suggests it’s something else—a rise in media attention. “It seems like it’s happening more, but it’s probably not,” ICSC spokesman Jesse Tron told Footwear News.

Nonetheless, the recent slew of disruptions is leading some malls to ban unsupervised teens at their properties.

Toledo’s Franklin Park Mall, for example, now requires anyone 17 or younger to be with an adult after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Julie Sanderson, a mall official, said the recent events aren’t the primary catalyst.

“It seems like there’s been more than normal over these last few weeks, with tensions high and social media playing a part,” Sanderson told the Toledo Blade.  “But our [policy] isn’t a reaction to anything or any event. This is about years of the community asking for this.”

Despite the fresh attention, few malls in the United States have restrictions on teenagers. ICSC’s Tron says just 70 to 75 malls—out of 1,200 in the U.S.—have such policies.

“Bans have just come into the public consciousness right now because there are several instances happening at once,” Tron told Yahoo Parenting. “But I’d anticipate that it abates later in the year.”

ICSC notes that malls generally try other tactics to handle unruly teens—including increasing security officers, police, or K-9 units. Bans on teenagers are generally a last-ditch effort to solve the problem.

Mall owners “want that teen demographic to be in the mall, and they want them to hang out there,” Tron said, “but they want them to do it in a manner that doesn’t prohibit other shoppers from being able to shop there, from feeling comfortable.”


Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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