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Towson Town Center set to launch policy on unaccompanied teens

Towson Town Center is putting into place a curfew for teens starting Sept. 16, on Friday and Saturday night after 5 pm. Children younger than 18 will not be allowed in the mall without a parent or other "supervising adult." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

The president of the Baltimore County chapter of the NAACP said he remains concerned that a new curfew to start Friday at the Towson Town Center mall might be discriminatory, but he acknowledges that there has been no outcry against it.

"Usually, when people are up in arms about things, we get a number of phone calls — and we haven't," Tony Fugett said Thursday.

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The mall plans to bar unaccompanied minors from the center after 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Mall officials said the policy, called "parental guidance required," is aimed at cutting down on unruly behavior by young people.

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The policy has been embraced by elected officials, business leaders and some mall patrons. But the NAACP and the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights say it might amount to age discrimination.

A representative from the civil rights commission met with mall management last week. Mall officials said Thursday that they had agreed to keep their discussions private and declined to comment. Commission officials could not be reached Thursday.

Fugett said the curfew might discriminate against teens in general and minority teenagers specifically. He said he's been studying police data on calls for service at the mall and consulting with the ACLU to see if there's any legal recourse, but no decision on possible action has been made.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said the mall's neighbors support the curfew.

"My constituents have been universally happy with this decision," the Perry Hall Republican said. "They think it helps with public safety. It will help with the general peace of mind with shoppers and business owners."

Marks was among those calling for a policy on teenagers after an incident in December in which young people threw rocks at police officers. One teen was charged as a juvenile with second-degree assault on a police officer.

Marks said he plans to visit the mall Friday to see how the first night of the policy goes.

Announcements about the policy are to be made over the mall's public address system starting at 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Security guards and off-duty police officers are to be stationed at the mall's 19 entrances at 5 p.m. to check identification.

Up to four minors can be accompanied by a parent or other adult who is 21 or older.

Young people who are older than 17 will be given the option of wearing a wristband when they are in the mall after 5 p.m. Teenagers who work at stores in the mall will be given wristbands.

Towson Town Center joins a growing list of businesses that restrict unaccompanied teens.

The Cinemark movie theater at Towson Square bans anyone younger than 17 without an accompanying parent after 9 p.m. The Avenue at White Marsh and the Hunt Valley Towne Center, both open-air centers, require teens to be accompanied by adults after 9 p.m.

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Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie prohibits teens younger than 16 to be in the mall without an adult after 5 p.m.

Officials at the Chicago-based General Growth Properties, which owns Towson Town Center, say they decide on parental guidance policies on a mall-by-mall basis. The company's other local suburban malls — White Marsh Mall and The Mall in Columbia — do not have policies about unaccompanied teenagers.

General Growth's Mondawmin Mall in West Baltimore does not allow anyone younger than 18 without an adult between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days.

The massive Mall of America in Minnesota established a policy on unaccompanied teens in 1996. At least 100 malls and shopping centers have some version of a teen curfew policy, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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