A mall proposal: curfews for 16 and under

Written by: Miranda Horn

New Jersey malls should keep the minors out: they are noisy, they are obnoxious, and they are responsible for a lot of thefts.  It is both annoying and distressing to observe a group of rowdy teens pushing and screaming at one another in the middle of a store, forming shady congregations around seating areas, and destroying store displays but never buying anything.

I don’t propose banning them outright, but it would be no loss to restrict the 16 and under kids from evening and weekend mall time unless accompanied by an adult.  An ID checking policy at mall entrances would offer employment opportunities as an added benefit to keeping the presence of troublesome teens to a minimum.

I’m not the only one to have this great idea, it turns out. According to the September 23, 2010 ABC News article, “New Policies Exterminating Teen Mall Rats,” by Kayleen Schaefer, the Mid Rivers Mall in Missouri, Tri-County Mall in Ohio, Crossgates Mall and Atlantic Terminal Mall in New York, and many more malls across the U.S. have already implemented curfews for minors.

Mall of America in Minnesota was among the first of the U.S. malls to set a curfew according to a June 28, 2007 TIME Magazine U.S article, “Bye-Bye, Mall Rats” by Julie Rawe.  The Guest Services, Parental Escort Policy section of the official Mall of America website says that “on Friday and Saturday evening’s youth under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older from 4 p.m. until close.”  Rawe’s article also says that “Some 46 of the 1,200 enclosed malls in the U.S. have adopted parental-escort policies…according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.”

Teens who can’t yet drive get dumped at the mall by parents who want the out of their hair. Understandable,  but according to the National Learning & Resource Center’s “Shoplifting Statistics” page by the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), “Approximately 25 percent of shoplifters are kids, 75 percent are adults.” This may not seem like a huge problem, but the article goes on to say that “55 percent of adult shoplifters say they started shoplifting in their teens.”

While many Quaker Bridge Mall store associates that I interviewed agreed that there seem to be more teen thefts than any other kind, the professional mall security staff was unwilling to confirm the occurrences or answer any questions.  If the security staff won’t comment, they should listen to what the retailers and concerned citizens have to say about enforcing a curfew for the mall.

A VOICE survey of associates in teen friendly stores at Quaker Bridge, including Forever 21, American Eagle, Pacific Sunwear, Journeys, Express, Spencer’s Gifts, Game Stop, Wet Seal, Lids, and Hot Topic located in Quaker Bridge Mall showed greater support for the implementation of  curfew than those who disagreed with the idea.  Of a total of 18 polled associates, 13 liked the idea of putting a curfew policy to work.

Of course, not everyone sees it my way. Claire Schultz, a Hamilton resident with a 16 year old daughter said that she didn’t like the idea of a curfew.  Schultz said that she trusts her daughter and a group of friends at the mall and they don’t need a chaperone. Ms. Schultz is right, not everyone needs it. I bet her daughter is great; lots of teens are great. I was a good teen myself. But there is a critical mass miscreants who make the mall unbearable and who could be thwarted with a curfew.

People with well-behaved teens aren’t the only ones who hate my idea. Six year retail veteran Jeff Van Wickle, Store Manager of Hot Topic strongly disagreed with the idea of a curfew.  Van Wickle said, “Those kids are our main clientele, if you implement curfews you lose sales.  You might decrease shrink*, but you are hurting sales…you can’t take out potential customers in this economy.”  He went on to say that activating the security staff the mall has in place would be a better idea than a curfew. Mall security could be helpful, but the guards at the Quaker Bridge Mall look like kids themselves.

It’s not the trustworthy ones that need watching, but it may help to protect them.  Rawe’s TIME Magazine U.S. article mentions “rowdy teenagers,…high-profile scuffles,…and violence” as specific reasons for the curfews that malls across America have already implemented.  It works elsewhere and it could work here.

*Shrink- A reduction in inventory due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors and supplier fraud (About.com definition).

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Miranda Horn
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