Misdemeanor crimes and other incidents at Columbia Mall on Fridays and Saturdays have fallen by 50 percent since a parental guidance requirement took effect Feb. 2, mall representatives say.
The new policy requires that those 16 and younger be accompanied by an adult older than 21 after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Mall marketing manager Sonja Derboven said she’s heard nothing but positive feedback about the change from shoppers and store owners.
Derboven defined incidents as “any violation of the rules, regulations or code of conduct at the mall.” That includes shoplifting, property damage and personal injury accidents.
Capt. Stephen Monticelli of the Columbia Police Department confirmed there have been no major disturbances at the mall since the program began. He said there are still minor incidents, such as shoplifting, but even those have declined dramatically.
Monticelli said the change in the mall atmosphere is prompting some people to return there on the weekends after years of staying away.
“We’re very happy with the program,” Monticelli said, adding that police have been able to direct their resources elsewhere.
“Resources are staying where they need to be throughout the city,” he said.
Heather King, a manager at Vanity clothing store in the mall, said she’s seen a positive change as well.
“I heard kids complaining at first, but there was definitely positive feedback from adults and other store managers.”
Many teenagers, however, are less than thrilled with the policy. High school freshmen Brittany Taylor and Logan Reed of Centralia said they are finding it difficult to shop at the mall during the week since they have school the next day. They’ve been to the mall only a few times since February, they said.
Still, Derboven said she’s heard no complaints from retailers about a loss of business.
“The sales have not really changed, just different people are buying now. Parents are buying now,” King said.
Derboven said not only parents but entire families have been coming to the mall since the curfew regulations were instated. In fact, stroller rentals are up 11 percent, Derboven said.
“We’ve seen a great number of families coming together to shop,” she said, adding the positive results might prompt the mall to apply the policy all week long.
“As we move forward, we may make changes in the future if they’re necessary,” she said.