Under a new parental guidance policy that went into effect Friday at Columbia Mall, youths younger than 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult who is at least 21 years old from 4 p.m. until the mall closes at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The mall was crowded on the first day that the policy was in effect, but not with unsupervised teenagers.
“The teenagers were becoming a problem in the mall,” said David Robinson, owner of the candy store Mr. Bulky. “It wasn’t severe yet, but it would have been if the policy wasn’t put into effect.”
On Friday, mall security guards started patrolling the mall for youths younger than 17 at 3:30 p.m. so they could leave by 4 p.m. Parents could pick up their children at designated tables in the food court or outside the mall. For the rest of the night, security guards stood at entrance doors ready to identify anyone who looked younger than the limit, giving teens with adult accompaniment a blue bracelet for identification.
A group of teenagers that was turned away shook their heads as they left. Lashayla Thompson was turned away because she thought that, at 16, she was old enough to be in the mall alone.
The policy does not affect Barnes & Noble, MC Sports, Target, Sears, J.C. Penney or Dillard’s, said Sonja Derboven, the mall’s marketing manager.
Derboven said the parental guidance policy was implemented as a last resort after the mall tried several alternatives last year. Mall security was increased to execute the policy, which also upped the mall’s budget, she said.
“It’s an education process,” Derboven said.