BLOOMINGTON — A teenage rite of passage — hanging out at the mall — soon will require adult supervision.
After ongoing problems with troublemaking kids, a new policy at Bloomington’s Eastland Mall will require minors to be escorted by parent or guardians after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, General Manager David Cate said Wednesday.
“We like our youth and we want them to shop here,” Cate said during a morning news conference. “We’re just asking that for six out of the 72 hours of the shopping week, they have their parents with them.”
The requirement will begin Friday.
The policy shift responds to concerns of store owners and mall patrons who have complained that large crowds of unsupervised youths on weekends cause trouble and make shoppers feel unsafe. Unsupervised youths account for about 60 percent of the mall’s bans or arrests on Friday and Saturday nights, Cate said.
Bloomington police responded to 776 calls at Eastland in 2012 and have had 360 calls so far this year, said department spokeswoman Sara Mayer. Police were unable to specify how many incidents at the mall stemmed from unsupervised minors.
Mayer said police will step up patrols with the aim of assisting mall security as the new policy takes effect.
The mall also will increase its security personnel to enforce the new policy, Cate said, though he did not know by how many. Security guards will be posted at the mall’s five entrances to screen minors entering the mall and, if necessary, to ask for identification proving their age.
The mall’s public address system will broadcast a message over the intercom at 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays telling young patrons to finish their shopping or ask a parent to accompany them.
Teenage mall employees will be exempt from the policy and be issued identification cards.
The mall’s anchor stores will be able to set their own policies on the matter.
Signs and brochures explaining the change were posted at the mall’s entrances Wednesday.
Julie Ewan, store manager at The Mole Hole gift shop, has seen fights involving unattended young people. She said the policy will be a benefit to shoppers and mall tenants.
“We’ve seen fights right out in front of the store,” Ewan said. “As a parent, I don’t want my daughter out here on Friday nights.”
Tim Wright and Michelle Stephens of Champaign were shopping at the mall late Wednesday afternoon with their 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. They agreed with the policy.
“I don’t think (teens) have any reason to be at the mall unless they’re with a parent, shopping,” Wright said.
Mall customer Jenny Sheton, 40, of Bloomington had mixed feelings about the policy, saying she understands the concerns of parents but also sees few places for teens to mingle safely.
“I feel like kids don’t have many places to go where they’re safe and can eat and shop,” Sheton said.
The mall’s parent company, CBL & Associates of Chattanooga, Tenn., operates 97 malls throughout the country. It has instituted a similar policy at about 10 of them, Cate said.
The Shoppes at College Hills in Normal, hasn’t had similar problems and isn’t considering such a policy, said Marketing Manager Cindy Patterson. It is not owned by CBL.
“I think there are a lot of differences to our two properties that lend themselves to being different environments,” Patterson said.