Several stores opted to shut their doors early on the night of Dec. 26 at North Riverside Park Mall, where crowds of unsupervised juveniles — who by mall policy weren’t allowed inside without an adult escort — caused periodic disruptions as security personnel tried to get them to exit.
The mall’s general manager, Harvey Ahitow, said officials did not order the mall itself closed due to any incident, but some store managers did take it upon themselves to close up sometime after 7 p.m.
“The 26th [of December] is always a challenge,” said Ahitow, who said mall management is keeping its youth escort policy in place for the remainder of the week since school is not in session and juveniles tend to congregate at the mall simply to hang out.
“There will be extra security and the escort policy will be in effect all week,” Ahitow said. “It’s become an excellent tool for us.”
People on social media reported several fights, but North Riverside police arrested just one person for battery. In that incident, according to police, a juvenile threw a water bottle at a friend and missed, hitting another mall patron.
That person then reportedly punched the juvenile who had thrown the water bottle. He was charged with battery.
Three others, all juveniles, were cited for disorderly conduct in two other incidents. North Riverside Police Commander Christian Ehrenberg said some of the disruption resulted from juveniles running from security guards who were trying to enforce the youth escort policy.
Calling it “a game of cat and mouse all day,” Ehrenberg said youths showed up in large numbers and spent time trying to evade security, which was disturbing to patrons.
Ahitow acknowledged that particular problem, saying mall officials hadn’t perfected a strategy for dealing with such large numbers of unsupervised kids. Even though youths are turned away at general mall entrances or escorted out, they still can get in via doors of mall anchor tenants and then re-enter the mall.
Police also received a call of shots fired outside the mall between 7 and 8 p.m. on Dec. 26. It’s unclear exactly where the shooting took place. Ahitow said he was told it was in the parking lot of City Sports, which is directly east of the mall parking lot.
North Riverside police reported locating a car with a small-caliber bullet hole in one of its doors. None of the occupants was injured and none would cooperate fully with police.
Police reported that an orange vehicle might have been involved in the shooting incident, and officers stopped an orange vehicle on Harlem Avenue just north of Cermak Road. However, it’s unclear whether that vehicle was involved or not.
It’s the second year in a row that incidents disrupted shopping at the mall on Dec. 26. Mall officials ordered the mall closed on the day after Christmas in 2015 after a fight near the food court.