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home : opinions : our views August 22, 2017

7/31/2017 4:20:00 PM
Thoughts on mall curfew
Brooke Bechen
Reporter/News and Features

A front page article in the Wisconsin State Journal a week or two ago immediately caught my attention. It announced that a decision had been made to ban anyone under the age of 18 from being in both the East Towne and West Towne Malls without a parent or guardian after 4:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, beginning Friday, July 28.
CBL Properties, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, owns many shopping centers across the nation, including these two in Madison. The company has instituted similar policies at 25 of its 83 shopping centers - the most recent at a mall in Rockford, Illinois. It was stressed in the article that malls are in fact private property, and the property's owners have the ability and the right to put these type of restrictions on their property.
I couldn't help but think of my youthful years as I read the article. Me and my girlfriends from high school would sometimes head up to the mall on the weekend. It was a pretty easy drive from Dodgeville to the West Towne Mall, and looking back, never once did I feel unsafe or feel the need to have an adult be present as we browsed clothing at Maurice's or ate a slice of Sbarro pizza in the food court.
But, as we all know, times do change.
Statistics outlined in the article explained that since 2014, there have been over 3,000 police calls to the East Towne and West Towne Malls on Fridays and Saturdays. The majority of those calls have been between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
It was reported that large groups of teens had been gathering - sometimes in groups of more than 100 - and on weekend evenings, have been known to cause disruptions, shoplift and fight. Representatives with CBL Properties think the curfew is in the best interest of the malls and their shoppers - and it was a decision that was not made lightly.
I wondered about imposing the curfew on Fridays and Saturdays, the days I would imagine would be the busiest days at the mall. Will imposing the curfew hurt business at the mall? How do the mall's tenants feel about the curfew?
I thought about the security guards at the mall and the extra work they will be taking on. Under the policy, after 4:00 p.m. on those nights, they would be asking youth for identification if they were unescorted by an adult. If they cannot produce ID or are underage, they would be asked to leave. And the police would be called if they decided to disobey. I wondered...if the kids are already unruly, wouldn't this cause more of a disturbance?
I also thought about the kids - maybe there isn't much else for them to do aside from hang out at the mall. What will they be doing now that the mall has barred them from entering after 4:00 p.m.? Where will they be going?
Although I understand a business has the authority to institute this type of curfew, I wonder how well it will really work at curbing issues with youth. Like most things, we'll just have to wait and see.

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