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Published: Wednesday, 2/17/2010

Mall adds security officers to limit weekend incidents

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER

More security and police officers will be at Westfield Franklin Park this weekend, police and mall managers decided yesterday while discussing a fight involving about 150 teenagers Saturday.

“The mall has committed to beef up security, on the weekend especially,” Toledo police Deputy Chief Mike Murphy said. He declined to release numbers of the current and pending security forces at the mall.

Mall officials did not return calls for comment.

Deputy Chief Murphy will meet again with mall officials tomorrow to consider additional security measures, he said.

It took about 30 police officers nearly three hours to disperse a mob of teens Saturday. Police arrested 16 youths ages 14 to 16.

The cause of the melee remained unclear yesterday, though it seemed that a smaller fight “just kind of mushroomed,” Deputy Chief Murphy said.

A police report identified a 16-year-old boy as a “leader” during the incident, and at least two teenage girls identified themselves as members of a gang called The Wreck Squad. Lt. Brad Weis, the gang unit commander, recognized The Wreck Squad as a known gang. He said he wasn't sure whether the two girls were among the more than 3,800 gang members tracked in the gang database.

A 14-year-old girl who kicked a trash can at police was arraigned in Juvenile Court yesterday for delinquency in connection with disorderly conduct, said Lori Olender, chief juvenile prosecutor for Lucas County. The student at Queen of Apostles School in Toledo will return to Juvenile Court for a pretrial hearing Feb. 25.

Westfield Franklin Park managers told police they would implement immediately a zero-tolerance policy for unruly teenagers. The mall no longer will warn teenagers who misbehave before removing or temporarily banning them from the property.

At least two of the boys in the brawl Saturday told police they had disobeyed an order from mall security to stay away from the facility for 30 days.

Other malls have taken their security a step further, mandating that teens be accompanied by an adult during certain hours.

The Fairlane Mall in Dearborn, Mich., did that about five years ago, and general manager Catherine O'Malley had no apologies.

“There was no real supervision. Parents were dropping them off,” Ms. O'Malley said. “We needed to make sure we were able to do our business rather than being there to monitor the young people.”

Fairlane's policy is that anyone younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult older than 21 after 5 p.m. daily. The policy wasn't in response to a safety issue, Ms. O'Malley said, but mall officials wanted “to be sure that we nipped it before it happened.

“It wasn't to make them feel unwelcome. It was to make the young people and parents recognize that we're here for business,” she said. “Just think of two major high schools with 1,000 students all converging on you on a weekend. And there are no hall monitors, no supervision.”

In Morristown, Tenn., College Square Mall enacted a supervision policy last year after surveys showed that many customers abandoned the mall because of teenagers' behavior, assistant manager Debra Curtice said.

“Our shoppers told us they didn't come to the mall anymore because of the foul language used by teenagers or that they were just intimidated by the teenagers,” Ms. Curtice said.

Now mall security officers check the IDs of shoppers who look younger than 21. Those under 18 are not allowed after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays without a parent.

“A lot of stores said it has helped their sales tremendously,” Ms. Curtice said. “The majority of stores have a positive response. Families are coming back to the mall and shopping.”

Contact Bridget Tharp at:btharp@theblade.comor 419-724-6086.



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