White Marsh Mall, The Avenue announce mandatory curfew for teens starting this weekend

The Baltimore Sun

The owner of White Marsh Mall is set to announce a new curfew Thursday for teens under the age of 18, who will no longer be allowed on the premises without an adult age 21 or over after 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The curfew goes into effect Friday and will be strictly enforced throughout the entire shopping center property, including the parking lot and exterior sidewalks, according to a statement from the mall’s parent company, Brookfield Properties. The Avenue at White Marsh also announced Thursday that it will enact the same curfew on Fridays and Saturdays for teen visitors.

The policy changes are the latest from the two closely situated Baltimore County shopping complexes — White Marsh Mall and The Avenue at White Marsh — that experienced a chaotic incident involving teens last summer.

A group of teens were implicated in a fight Aug. 9, which began in a bathroom in the food court, then quickly escalated, drawing more than 36 Baltimore County patrol and aviation officers, as well as Maryland State Police. Nine people were arrested, including two 19-year-old adults.

Since then, community members have debated for months how to handle unsupervised teens hanging out at The Avenue and the mall. The debate led Baltimore County leaders to weigh in and spurred accusations of racism between county legislators.

Shortly after the August incident, a racist flyer appeared online calling on county officials to cut off what it called the “Ghetto Bus Line” to White Marsh Mall.

Mall management discussed security protocols with the Baltimore County Police Department and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski before announcing the formal curfew program, White Marsh Mall general manager Mary Williams said in the company statement Thursday.

“We’ve continuously explored and implemented new security measures while also listening to the concerns from our community,” Williams said. “All are welcome at White Marsh Mall at any time. We simply require that during certain weekend hours, families shop together and guests under 18 are accompanied by an adult. The [Parental Guidance Required] program will enhance the shopping experience in ways the entire community will appreciate.”

Olszewski’s spokesman T.J. Smith said in an email Wednesday that the county executive has supported an evening parental guidance requirement, which is different from a blanket curfew.

“He believes that children should be accompanied by a responsible adult,” Smith said in the email. “This policy is similar to other policies that are already in place and have proved effective.”

County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said in an email that any lawful efforts aiming to “preserve public safety and the reduction of crime will be supported by the Police Department."

County councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who advocated in October for a weekend mall curfew, said in a statement Thursday that she applauds the shopping centers’ decisions, calling it a “move in the right direction.”

Councilman David Marks said in an email that the curfew was long over due and “absolutely necessary with warm weather and larger crowds approaching.”

Before Thursday, White Marsh Mall’s youth policy encouraged shoppers under the age of 18 to be accompanied by someone 21 years old or older, but did not have a specific curfew. The Avenue previously had a curfew in place after 9 p.m.

The new mall curfew mimics similar policies already in place at two other Baltimore-area malls owned by Brookfield Properties — Mondawmin Mall in the city and Towson Town Center.

Starting this weekend, trained public safety officers will be stationed at the mall’s entrances to check identification of visitors who appear to be younger than 18 years old. Identification must be tamper-proof and include a photograph and date of birth, the policy states.

One adult may accompany up to four youths and must remain with them at all times.

Mall officials plan to make announcements notifying shoppers of the policy each Friday and Saturday starting at 4 p.m.

After the curfew is in effect, public safety officers inside the shopping center will card individuals who appear to be underage. Visitors age 18 and older who provide proper identification will be offered an optional wristband, designed to prevent being asked for identification again.

Last month, The Avenue’s owner Federal Realty Investment Trust tightened the penalty for its youth escort policy, which stipulates visitors under the age of 17 need to be supervised by someone 21 years old or older after 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and, starting this week, after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Any teen caught violating the policy will be banned from the premises for three months.

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