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Water Tower Place mall curfew OK but only part of the solution to teen mobs

The Water Tower Place in Chicago on August 14, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Water Tower Place. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

It is unfortunate that the owners of Water Tower Place had to ban unaccompanied minors from the mall on Friday and Saturday nights because of destructive behavior.

But what choice do they have?

More than 100 malls throughout the country have had to put some kind of curfew in place to prevent mobs of unruly teens from taking over.

That says to me that too many parents are neglecting to teach what we used to call “home training.”

And, frankly, how many places (outside of church) can large groups of unsupervised teens congregate without trouble breaking out?

Teens lack impulse control, and nowhere is that more evident than at the mall.

Water Tower Place’s announcement of the “parental guidance required” policy follows on the heels of yet another outbreak of dangerous behavior by a large group of teens in the vicinity of the Mag Mile mall.

On Dec. 29, a large group of teenagers attacked three people on the CTA Red line platform. Police have arrested two juveniles in connection with the mob action.

Two 15-year-old boys, a 16-year-old boy and 18-year-old Michael Sardin have been charged with felony aggravated battery and mob action.

The victims were treated for bruises, lacerations and a fractured eye socket.

Surveillance images of the suspects show African-American males, reinforcing the negative stereotypes some people have about black youth.

It also helps explain why Water Tower Place treaded carefully in trying to come up with its “curfew” policy.

Although a lot of people claim they don’t see race, innocent African-American teens have been racially profiled and wrongly punished because of such negative behavior.

For instance, last summer, security guards at Water Tower Place mistakenly forced at least two groups of well-behaved African-American teens to leave the mall, raising questions about whether the teens were being racially profiled.

A spokesman for the mall’s owner acknowledged the error and later invited the teens back to the mall for a personal apology.

Still, no one should have to be afraid to come downtown to shop because groups of teenagers are threatening and intimidating people.

Obviously, most young people hang out at the mall without raising a ruckus. But social media has made it easy for large groups of unsupervised teens to gather for the sole purpose of causing trouble.

Truth is, we have little defense against a mob of teenagers running wild in a mall.

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Water Tower Place is actually late in establishing a curfew for minors.

In 1996, the behemoth Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., requiring youth under the age of 16 to be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Water Tower Place “parental guidance required” policy would be implemented at 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and remain in effect until further notice.

To gain entrance to the mall after 4 p.m., patrons must be over the age of 17 or accompanied by an adult who is at least 21 years.

While some civil rights organizations have blasted “mall curfews” as “criminalizing youth” and “discriminatory,” so far Water Tower Place’s new policy hasn’t raised any hackles.

“Because it is a private entity in terms of a mall, they are likely to have the right to set rules for how people use their facility and what they do. I am not sure we would look at this and say this is illegal,” said Ed Yonka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

But it is always a matter of concern with these kinds of rules and how they are being applied. If there is a group of young people on the North Side who come to Water Tower to see a movie [are they] being treated the same as a group of young people from the South and West sides who come to Water Tower to buy a Mother’s Day gift? We would want to monitor [the policy] and see how it’s actually enforced and ensure that it is done in a fair and non-discriminatory way,” he said.

The “parental guidance required” policy imposed by Water Tower Place may solve its problem.

But more needs to be done in communities to redirect the hordes of young people who think causing havoc and disrespecting the rights of others is a joke.