By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Cruising Main Street, hanging out at the mall, and gathering in parking lots are part of teen culture.
So is angst and mischief.
Police were called Friday to assist security officers at North Plains Mall when more than 80 youth gathered in a parking lot, according to dispatcher call logs.
Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair said teens hanging out and being disruptive is a growing problem in the community.
“Many parents just drop their kids off and the mall ends up baby-sitting them (and) it puts baby-sitting services on other people, including us,” he said.
Cindy Banister, manager of North Plains Mall, said every week about 100 youths come to the mall on Friday and Saturday nights.
When teens become loud, congregate or use offensive language, Banister said it disturbs shoppers and creates an unpleasant environment.
“We want a safe and enjoyable shopping experience for everyone that comes here,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t want the teens here, but this is a shopping mall. It’s not a teen hangout.”
Banister said the mall has a posted code of conduct and security personnel often explain the basic rules — no loitering, no foul language or hanging out in groups.
Elouisa Vega, manager of Claire’s Boutique, said sometimes customers express frustration when youth are jumping on benches, gawking at people getting their ears pierced or just being loud.
“They do hang out right here in front of my store and it does get a little distracting … It’s not even about shopping or anything, they’re just hanging out,” she said.
Blair believes it is a parent’s responsibility to structure activities for their children.
Blair explained officers don’t usually issue citations when called to remove juveniles, but instead shoo youth from locations when they conduct themselves inappropriately.
Melissa Smith, co-manager the Java Loft located a few blocks from the mall, said in the past when the mall closed and the movies would get out, teens filled the coffee shop.
Tables and couches were destroyed and bathrooms overflowed, she said.
“We told them, ‘We want you here, we know you don’t have anywhere else to go, but you’re not going to destroy the place and run off (our) other customers.”
The results have been positive, she said.
“If you treat them like adults, they will only rise to your expectations. We expect respect.”