The general manager of Park Plaza Mall in Little Rock on Thursday explained the thinking behind a new policy requiring minors to be accompanied by a supervising adult some nights of the week.
At a news conference, Lance Ivy said the mall aims to be a “family-friendly” space, but that an influx of unsupervised youths has created an “uncomfortable atmosphere.”
There have been a number of “disturbances” in the past few months, Ivy said, including an incident Dec. 26, when dozens of teens were removed from the mall for “causing fear,” Arkansas Online reported.
After reviewing the problem and talking to business owners, mall officials decided to implement a new youth escort policy, Ivy said. The policy, which starts April 7, requires anyone younger than 18 years old to be accompanied by a parent or guardian who is 21 or older Friday and Saturday nights after 5 p.m. The mall closes at 9 p.m. on those nights.
The rule can also be applied on other days at the management's discretion, according to a news release. It does not apply to teens who are working at the mall Friday and Saturday nights.
Teenage shoppers are “important to us” and “welcome to shop at the mall anytime,” Ivy said. They're a main part of their customer base, and “we definitely don't want to shun them,” he said.
Ivy also said he did not think the rule will affect the number of teens shopping at the mall, adding that other shopping centers around the United States have done a similar thing with positive effects.
To enforce the policy, the mall will train security officers and place them near entrances during the designated times, Ivy said. Those guards will approach incoming customers if they have a hard time knowing how old the person is and ask for photo identification, which could include a school ID.
If a teen is in violation, his or her parents will be called, Ivy said. The officer will “keep an eye” on minors until their guardians arrive, he said.
The mall is publicizing the policy three weeks before it goes into affect through social media and posting the rule near entrances and on fliers so there will be no surprises, Ivy said. The businesses inside Park Plaza were consulted before the rule was announced, and many, such as Dillard's, are in support, he said.
Kristina Jones and Allie Scott were discussing Park Plaza's new rule as they perused racks of blouses and stacks of jewelry at Forever 21 on Thursday morning. Jones, 15, said she doesn't go shopping too often, but she can understand why the mall might want to enforce some sort of adult supervision. She said she's watched teenagers do some “dumb things for fun” and “roughhouse” before.
Scott, who is 17, agreed and said she had no idea it was getting bad enough for Park Plaza management to do something about it. Scott said she and Jones are both homeschooled and enjoy coming the mall during the day so they can weave in and out of stores without the crowds.
But children who are at public or private school during the day don't have that option, Scott said. And those kids might not have a 21-year-old to accompany them at night, Jones added.
“I could definitely see that being a problem” for them, Scott said.