By Bob Uphues
For the second consecutive Saturday, police officers and security personnel stationed outside North Riverside Park Mall turned away unsupervised teenagers to prevent a flash mob incident such as the one that shut down Ford City Mall on Feb. 23.
According to North Riverside Police Lt. Debbie Garcia, the department received a phone call warning that social media sites had been putting out a call to area teenagers to appear at North Riverside Park Mall and Chicago Ridge Mall on March 2.
The Evergreen Park Patch website reported that Chicago Ridge police on Friday, March 1, alerted officials at Chicago Ridge Mall about a flash mob planned for the next day. The flash mob was being organized by the same group responsible for the Ford City incident, according to Patch.
NBC Chicago reported that about 50 police officers were stationed at Chicago Ridge Mall on Saturday afternoon to turn away teens arriving by bus.
Between 14 and 18 police officers from North Riverside and the West Suburban Enhanced Drug/Gang Enforcement task force were stationed at North Riverside Park Mall on Saturday afternoon.
Garcia said the department's day shift worked overtime and the afternoon shift arrived to work early to make sure there were enough police on hand. Other off-duty officers were also called into work to assist, said Garcia.
According to Garcia, anyone 17 or older was allowed into the mall only with an ID proving their age. Anyone under the age of 17 and unsupervised by an adult was turned away at the door, said Garcia.
"It was on pretty tight lockdown," Garcia said. "It was definitely more crowded than normal. It took a lot of manpower."
Just a week earlier, in the late afternoon of Feb. 23, a crowd of 200 or so youths appeared suddenly at Ford City Mall in Chicago and caused a disturbance that ended with mall officials closing the shopping center early.
North Riverside police learned of a possible flash mob being planned that evening for North Riverside Park Mall and sent police to disperse groups of unsupervised teens and bar entrance to ones beginning to arrive.
North Riverside's mall remained open during its normal operating hours on both Feb. 23 and March 2.
Chicago police on Saturday also warned business owners on Michigan Avenue to be on alert for a planned flash mob, but nothing materialized.