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County officials call for curfew at Towson Town Center

An unruly crowd outside Towson Town Center that threw rocks at police Saturday, leading to the arrest of one teenager, has some in Towson calling for a curfew at the mall.

"Clearly, something needs to change," said Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson.

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A group of young people gathered Saturday outside the mall after its 9 p.m. closing. Some clashed with police, and two officers were hit with rocks.

A 16-year-old girl was arrested and charged as a juvenile with second-degree assault on a police officer, according to Cpl. John Wachter, a county police spokesman. He said the two officers were not seriously injured.

Marks said the incident underscores the need for a youth curfew at the mall. He pointed to a policy at The Avenue at White Marsh — another mall in his district — that requires youths under age 17 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian after 9 p.m. The AMC Theaters at the Avenue also requires those under 17 to be accompanied by an adult for movies that begin after 9 p.m.

"Many major malls have similar policies, and they seem to work," Marks said.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat, urged that the mall consider "youth curfew and dress policies." He said he has suggested a curfew to mall management before.

"Towson Town Center management has an obligation to address the issue of large numbers of unsupervised teens leaving the mall at closing time," Kamenetz said.

Marks said he does not foresee introducing county legislation to set a curfew, but rather expects mall management to address the issue. He said he hopes to discuss the idea of a curfew with management soon.

Officials with General Growth Properties, which owns the Towson facility and other local malls, declined to comment on the possibility of a curfew. The company issued a statement emphasizing that Saturday night's incident took place off mall property. The statement said the mall will work with police on safety matters and will continue to enforce a code of conduct.

The mall's code of conduct, posted online, prohibits anything that disrupts the safety of the mall or its "pleasant, family-oriented shopping environment." The code prohibits "disruptive profanity," "excessive loitering," blocking walkways and disorderly conduct.

Towson Town Center's code of conduct is identical to those for other malls owned by General Growth Properties, including White Marsh, The Mall in Columbia, Mondawmin and The Gallery in Baltimore.

The county has made redevelopment and revitalization of Towson a priority. Kamenetz has said he wants downtown Towson to become a vibrant urban center, and his administration has promoted private investment in retail, office and residential growth.

"As Towson grows, the size of the police force needs to grow as well," Marks said.

Marks noted that other precincts often lend officers to the Towson precinct to meet needs there.

Wachter said precincts commonly lend officers to one another for special events or other needs. He declined to say whether a permanent increase in the Towson precinct's staff is under consideration.

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"We always look at our staffing levels and our operations to see where we can be more efficient and see what places need more personnel," he said.

Concerns have been raised in Towson over noisy patrons leaving bars at closing time and parties by college students in residential neighborhoods. The arrest of a young man outside the Greene Turtle on York Road drew attention this month after videos surfaced of a police officer punching the suspect.

Zachary Blumenstein, 19, of Chevy Chase was charged with resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, trespassing and failing to obey a police officer.

A police officer identified only by his last name, Slenker, under department policy, seen on the video punching Blumenstein, has been placed on administrative duty while the incident is investigated.

Marks said he hopes to hold a meeting with bar owners, police and other officials in January to discuss ways to improve safety at closing times.

Despite the recent high-profile incidents, Marks said Towson is a safe place to visit. He and Kamenetz noted a small decrease in crime in Towson last year.

"It is a safe and comfortable place," Marks said.

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