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Baltimore County executive supports teen curfew at White Marsh Mall

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said Friday he supports establishing a curfew at the White Marsh Mall, which has drawn complaints about unsupervised teens.

Olszewski met Friday with representatives of the shopping center and plans another meeting next week. Several County Council members have pushed for a curfew and more security measures at the mall ever since a large fight led to the arrest of nine people in August.

“I think [a curfew policy] needs to be crafted in collaboration with their customers and the surrounding community,” said Olszewski, a Democrat who took office last month.

The county executive said the meeting was attended by the mall’s general manager, Mary Williams, and attorney Edward Gilliss.

“We look forward to a collaborative relationship,” Olszewski said. “I was encouraged by how the mall is interested in finding solutions with us.”

Representatives of Brookfield Properties, which owns the mall, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

The meeting came the day after hundreds of people packed a community forum in Perry Hall to discuss crime. Olszewski said he is listening to those concerns, but also wants “to keep things in perspective,” noting that crime in the county is down.

The county executive said his administration is working to provide more accessible, up-to-date crime data to residents.

“These concerns are real, and I take the public safety concerns of all of our residents seriously,” he said.

The county experienced a spike in violent crime in 2017. But police department statistics show overall crime fell nearly 8 percent in the first half of 2018 — the most recent data available. Crime in the White Marsh precinct decreased more than 12 percent during that period.

Despite that data, council members say crime is an issue at the forefront of their discussions with constituents.

More than 400 people attended a meeting Thursday night at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Perry Hall to discuss public safety, said Councilman David Marks, who sponsored the forum along with state Sen. Kathy Klausmeier. Many residents wanted to talk about the mall, he said.

Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said crime is the “No. 1 concern” he hears from his constituents.

“The police department laid out some encouraging statistics, but there [have been] some high-profile incidents that cause a general unease about public safety,” he said, pointing to the May killing of Officer Amy Caprio and the August fight at the mall.

In November, the County Council voted 7-0 to support a resolution urging the mall to bar unsupervised teenagers on Friday and Saturday nights. Marks and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins had earlier called for the Maryland Transit Administration to stop bus service in the area after 11 p.m., an idea that then-County Executive Don Mohler called “outrageous.”

In a November letter to the County Council’s attorney following the vote on the resolution, the mall's general manager said the facility increased security and the use of off-duty police officers, and would “continue to evaluate” the need for a policy requiring parental supervision.

Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, said she frequently hears from people who don’t feel safe at the mall.

“I want the mall to be successful,” she said.

Two other Baltimore-area malls owned by Brookfield Properties require minors to be accompanied by an adult at certain times — Mondawmin Mall in the city and Towson Town Center in the county.

The Mondawmin Mall policy is in effect on public city school days before 6 p.m. In Towson, minors must be accompanied by an adult on Fridays and Saturdays after 5 p.m.

The Avenue at White Marsh, which is owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust, requires shoppers under 17 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian after 9 p.m. each day.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.

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