The Mall in Columbia will require mall guests who are 17 years and younger to be accompanied by an adult who is at least 21 years old after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays starting March 31.
To enforce the mandatory chaperone rule — that mall management is calling a “parental guidance required” program — trained public safety officers, wearing bright yellow uniforms that say “Security,” will be at each entrance to the mall and check IDs of shoppers who appear to be younger than 18.
One adult can chaperone up to four people and they must stay with the youths throughout their visit in the mall.
The parental guidance comes after the mall increased security presence due to months of complaints about teen “chaos.” Shoppers and mall workers complained of large groups of youths who got into fights, hit people with Orbeez guns and got in the way of shoppers and store entrances every weekend, always between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Mary Williams, senior general manager, said that as a family-friendly mall, they want to keep it a place where families can feel comfortable.
“We feel very strongly about providing a very safe and secure and pleasant shopping environment for all of our families that visit, and this was just something that we felt would add to that,” she said.
Under the chaperone rule, when shoppers enter the mall, safety officers will ask for identification of people who appear to be younger than 18. If shoppers can provide proper identification showing that they are at least 18, the safety officers will offer them an optional wristband. Anyone who does not wear the wristband may be asked for an ID again by another safety officer.
The wristbands will be made of paper, and the color will change each day, corresponding to the day it is issued to shoppers, Williams said.
Announcements will be made over the intercom each day alerting shoppers of the rule.
“We’ll start making announcements probably about 3 just to tell people, ‘At 4 our PGR program goes into place — just be advised of that,’” Williams said. “And then, if they’re still in the mall at that time, we have some security people in the mall that will politely tell them, ‘Hey, we have our PGR program in place, how old are you?’”
Typically, there are security officers present in the mall, but there will be a heavier presence during the chaperone rule hours.
The required identification that will be accepted includes a state issued driver’s license or ID card, a military ID, a school ID card or a passport. The IDs should also include a photograph, date of birth and be tamper proof.
“Implementing a PGR program is not something we’ve entered lightly, and I want to be clear that everyone is still welcome at all times, but on weekends we now require that families shop together,” Williams said.
Brookfield Properties, the company that owns the mall, also owns Towson Town Center and Mondawmin Mall, both of which have similar chaperone rules in place.