By Bob Uphues
Officials at North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road, ordered the shopping center shut down at about 5 p.m. on Dec. 29 and called in a large police presence to disperse crowds and turn away anyone trying to enter.
Police at the scene said that large groups of unaccompanied juveniles started arriving at the mall after social media posts encouraged youths to show up at the shopping center. At least one shopper leaving the mall told the Landmark that fights had broken out inside the mall. Social media posts in the past half hour or so also refer to fights taking place inside the mall.
North Riverside Police issued a Level 3 ILEAS callout, according to one police source, indicating that more than a dozen area police departments had been requested to help. In a press release, North Riverside police stated that no property damage or injuries were reported.
The mall "closed down due to large groups of unattended juveniles," the press release stated. "These groups were causing large disturbances throughout the common areas of the mall."
Two juveniles were arrested for disorderly conduct, according to police. The mall will open for normal business hours on Dec. 30.
In 2013, the North Riverside Park Mall instituted a juvenile escort policy on Friday and Saturday evenings, which prohibits entry to anyone 18 or under unless they are accompanied by an adult 21 or over. The policy was instituted because of similiar incidents around that time.
Meanwhile, several businesses in the North Riverside Plaza and Cermak Plaza in Berwyn either shut their doors early or began restricting entry after juveniles leaving the mall started making their way east. Among the businesses closing their doors in the North Riverside Plaza were Michael's and Chick fil A. Jewel-Osco remained open but locked one of the two entry doors. CVS at the corner of Cermak and Harlem in North Riverside also closed early.
In the Cermak Plaza, Marshall's, The Gap Outlet and Office Depot closed early. McDonald's closed its dining room, but the drive-thru remained open. At Walgreens and Tony's Fresh Market, entry was being restricted by employees stationed at the doors.
Employees at Walgreens said they called police after more than 20 juveniles entered the store all at once. They reportedly left the store without incident. A heavy police presence remained in the vicinity of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road until after 8 p.m.