In the coming months, teenagers won’t be able to hang out at Chicago Ridge Mall unless accompanied by an adult following a Saturday evening melee that led to a significant police response and forced the mall to close early.
Chicago Ridge Police Chief Robert Pyznarski met Monday morning with mall officials, who said they would adopt in March a policy similar to the one in place at North Riverside Mall.
North Riverside Mall officials in 2013 announced a youth escort policy designed to reduce the number of unsupervised teens hanging out at the shopping center on weekend nights.
Under the policy, after 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, anyone under 17 years old is required to be accompanied by a parent or supervising adult, age 21 or over.
Chicago Ridge Mall officials have not yet ironed out the details of their proposed policy, but the goal is to eliminate unsupervised teens from wandering the shopping center, Pyznarski said.
Teens coming to the mall to see a movie will be required to go straight to the theater area and leave immediately after the movie. They would not be permitted to linger in the food court or enter the mall shopping area after movies are over, he said.
Pyznarski said the youth escort policy might be tough to enforce at first, but over time the details will be worked out.
At North Riverside Mall, for example, security checks photo IDs of unescorted teens who enter the mall. Those under 18 and are required to leave.
Contact cards would be created for teens that repeatedly violate the policy, Pyznarski said.
Additionally, the mall has decided to hire uniformed, off-duty Chicago Ridge police officers to enhancement mall security.
“We work pretty well together,” Pyznarski said.
The decision to implement the youth escort policy and beef up security comes after Saturday’s skirmish, which quickly escalated when some patrons believed shots were fired inside the mall.
As it turns out, a restaurant worker in the food court banged pots together several times in an effort to disperse the crowd that gathered when a fight broke out, officials said.
“There were no shots fired,” Pyznarski said.
Police from several surrounding communities—some carrying rifles, others accompanied by canine partners—were at the mall within minutes. Patrons were told to leave the building and the mall shut its doors a few hours before its traditional 9 p.m. closing time.
Pyznarski denied that the incident was the result of flash mob.
Instead, he said, the incident grew out of a fight in the food court between two teenagers or men in their early 20s. One of the men was escorted out of the mall but returned to resume the fight. It was at that time that the incident escalated, Pyznarski said.
Both men eluded security officers and police, he said. No arrests were made and no one was injured.
“It was just an isolated incident,” he said. “I don’t think anything was preplanned. It was between two individuals. I think everything worked out as well as could be expected.”
Pyznarski added that the mall was especially crowded because it was a Saturday night, shoppers were returning gifts or seeking post-holiday bargains and teenagers are on break from school.
Post-holiday flash mobs were reported over the weekend at malls in several cities, including Pittsburgh, Memphis, Nashville, and Kansas City. An incident also occurred last Friday at Chicago’s Navy Pier.
Police in 2013 put the kibosh on a group of youth flash mobs who were planning to run amok at Chicago Ridge Mall.
Police were notified of the planned mob by teachers and administrators from two Chicago high schools and the Chicago Police Department’s gang unit, Pyznarski said.
Three hundred youths planned to meet at Ford City and take public transportation to the Chicago Ridge Mall, he said.
But police officers were at the mall in anticipation of the mob’s arrival. The mall tripled its security personnel and brought in security officers from nearby malls. The police presence caused most of the teens to reboard Paces buses rather than enter the shopping center.
Neither Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar nor mall officials could be reached for comment on Monday.