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Area malls place restrictions on teenagers

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Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2007 12:00 am

Galleria, Jamestown require parental guidance during some weekend hours

By Bernie Hayes

Of the St. Louis American

Responding to the annoyance of teenage loitering, an increasing number of shopping malls are turning away teenagers during evening hours unless they're accompanied by adults.

The latest two to join this trend are the St. Louis Galleria in Richmond Heights and Jamestown Mall in North St. Louis County. They join the St. Louis Mills, which recently began operating under a curfew intended to prevent individuals under the age of 17 from loitering in the mall after several fights broke out within the shopping center.

The St. Louis Galleria in Richmond Heights is now off-limits to unescorted youths under 17 in the late afternoons on Fridays and Saturdays. The mall's Parental Guidance Required, or PGR, program prohibits those younger than 17 from entering the mall after 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays unless accompanied by a parent or other adult who is 21 or older.

A spokesperson said the rule is intended to cut down on rowdy behavior after two recent fights among teenagers. The new rules went into effect April 20.

The age restriction at Jamestown Mall is different. It will be implemented tomorrow afternoon (April 27). Its Parental Escort Policy requires all individuals under 18 years of age at the shopping center after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night to be under the supervision and control of an adult, 21 years or older.

Tony Stephens, general manager at Jamestown, said, “We are dedicated to providing our shoppers with an enjoyable family shopping experience. This program is designed to promote a comfortable and inviting shopping environment for all patrons of Jamestown Mall.”

Stevens stressed the new family-oriented policy is similar to those implemented at other area shopping centers and has been developed with the support of shoppers, merchants and many organizations in the North County community. Stevens said under the new guidelines, all customers of the Weherenberg Cine 14 will be permitted access to the theater.

During the 2006 Christmas Holidays, a 15-year-old was arrested for disorderly conduct and a male juvenile was treated after pepper spray burned his eyes at a fight in Fairview Heights. Approximately 20 officers were called to help Fairview Heights police break up a battle at the St. Clair Square Cine’. The fight involved between 8-10 people, although police say as many as 200 filled the lobby at one point. Also, last month a man fired a handgun inside Saint Clair Square Mall

The presence of young people, particularly in groups, is considered threatening by some people, including older people and retailers. Young people themselves frequently also experience harassment from authority groups, despite being in a public space, and many adults and parents argue that young people enjoy the liveliness of busy places and shouldn't be seen as anti-social or problematic.

Many young people in this area are angry about this policy and feel that it should be changed. Some area teens emphasize that shopping malls serve as a sort of community center where those too young to drive gather for after-school socializing.

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., was the first U.S. mall to create a PRG policy in 1996 and calls it a longtime success. The restriction policies at malls have caught on and 39 malls across the country now have limits on teenagers. Fifteen implemented such policies in the past two years, and dozens more are considering them.

Incidents such as the fights at local malls and theaters have forced people to think about how safe shopping centers are to the general public. Some mall shoppers claim that young people make others feel insecure. Their clothing often is distinctive and can make them look intimidating.

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