By Bob Uphues
North Riverside Park Mall security and local police on Saturday night actively dispersed groups of teens and turned others away at the doors to deter the chaos that closed Ford City Mall in Chicago earlier that day.
At about 5 p.m., Ford City Mall officials closed the shopping center after hundreds of teenagers descended on the area. A large group of youths ran through the mall, located at 7601 S. Cicero Ave., yelling and reportedly sending shoppers and their families running into stores to get out of their way.
After officials closed the mall, as many as 200 teens roamed through the mall parking lot, damaging vehicles. At least two people suffered minor injuries and police arrested 19 teens, according to the Chicago Tribune. Inside the mall, the only casualty was a planter, said John Sarama, the mall's senior general manager.
"I've never experienced something like this before," said Sarama "What was the purpose of it?"
Ford City Mall earlier in the day had hosted an appearance by the boy band Mindless Behavior. According to Sarama, the event drew parents and their tween children, mostly girls, and went off without a hitch.
About 45 minutes after that event ended, large groups of teens began getting off buses and started the havoc inside the mall. There was no attempt by the teens to enter stores, steal items or purposely damage property inside the mall, but their sudden appearance and actions were unsettling.
"Thank goodness the Chicago Police Department was here," said Sarama. "Why did this happen? What was this? We're trying to find out."
According to Sarama, tenants at Ford City with outlets at North Riverside contacted the mall to let them know what had happened.
At 6:30 p.m., mall security put out a call to North Riverside police to help them disperse a large group of teenagers in the food court area of the mall. Police arrested a 13-year-old boy from Berwyn for disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and resisting arrest after he reportedly became unruly when police tried to disperse the group.
North Riverside police called on officers from Riverside, Lyons and Brookfield to assist at the mall in the wake of that incident, said Garvey. As North Riverside officers patrolled inside the mall, the other police officers and security stationed themselves outside the mall's entrances and began turning away any groups of teens.
"We were just not allowing unsupervised groups of juveniles into the mall," said Garvey.
The officers remained on the scene until about 8:30 p.m., Garvey said. Police reported one other incident that night, writing a 15-year-old Chicago girl a local ordinance ticket for battery after she reportedly slapped a woman in the face inside a restroom off the food court area.
North Riverside Park Mall General Manager Harvey Ahitow was not on duty Saturday night and had no first-hand knowledge of the events that night, but praised his security staff for their actions.
"I read the report," said Ahitow. "My guys did a great job."
Ahitow added that mall officials are working to craft a "plan to control this unsupervised mall attendance by juveniles." He said that the plan has been in the works for several months. When it's ready to be enacted, he said, the mall would announce the policy.
"When we're ready to make it public, I'd like to get it published so people don't get blind-sided with it," Ahitow said.