If you’re under the age of 18 and you want to visit the North Riverside Park Mall on a Friday or Saturday night after May 31, you’d better be accompanied by an adult. Because if you’re not with an adult, you won’t get in the doors.
Mall officials announced the new youth escort policy on May 1 as a way to cut down on the number of unsupervised youths hanging out at the shopping center on weekend nights.
Under the new policy, after 6 p.m. on every Friday and Saturday night, anyone less than 17 years old is required to be accompanied by a parent or other supervising adult, age 21 or over. One adult may supervise up to four children.
“The number one goal is to make the mall a safer environment for both adults and kids,” said Lidia Darkova, marketing director for the North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road. “Unsupervised youths deters shoppers from coming in. They’re coming not to shop, but to hang out.”
On Friday and Saturday evenings, mall security will at about 5:30 p.m. make a general announcement for anyone 17 and under without an adult escort to finish up shopping and arrange for a ride home.
Security personnel will be stationed at the main entrances to the mall, said Darkova, to turn away any unsupervised youths after that time.
“If they see teens entering the mall, they will be stopped and IDs will be checked,” said Darkova.
Anyone who appears to be under 18 will be asked to present a valid photo ID, including a driver’s license, state ID, military ID, passport or school ID card with a date of birth.
“We’re just being proactive with this thing,” said Harvey Ahitow, the mall’s general manager. “We’ve just gotten too busy and too crowded. We get a lot of kids in the center who are not shopping. It’s not a rec center.”
Teens coming to the mall to see a movie will be required to go straight to the theater area when arriving and leave immediately after the movie. Unsupervised teens will not be able to linger in the food court or enter the mall shopping area after movies are over, said Darkova.
That particular policy is not sitting too well with food court restaurants, according to Darkova.
“Some food court tenants are concerned, because they get a lot of teen sales at night,” she said.
Exactly how the mall will monitor comings and goings to the movie theaters is still in the works, and may include bracelets for those who have purchased tickets.
The youth escort policy has been in the works for months. Ahitow stated back in February that such a policy would be implemented eventually.
The mall has cracked down on unruly behavior since a pair of large-scale incidents back in 2006 and 2008. Also since that time, mall management has made improvements to the shopping center, including upgrading the food court and other common spaces, attracting higher-end tenants and inking a deal with Classic Cinemas to run its movie theater complex.
Ahitow said the goal is to lure families back to shop at the mall on Friday and Saturday nights. The kids for the most part aren’t being bad, said Ahitow. They’re just being kids. But it has the tendency to drive adults away.
“What we’re hoping is to get more families to shop on Friday and Saturday night who have been intimidated away,” Ahitow said. “We’re taking a positive step toward making it a more positive experience on Friday and Saturday night.”
This story has been changed. The mall escort policy affects youths under age 18.