Mall to require parental escorts for teens on weekends

CONYERS - Teens wanting to cruise inside the Mall at Stonecrest on a Friday or Saturday night will soon have to bring a parent along.

Officials at the south DeKalb shopping mall will establish a program this spring to require that those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The new policy is scheduled to be formally announced in two weeks and will take effect May 1. The policy is called the Parental Involvement Program (PIP) and will augment the mall's existing code of conduct, which will remain in effect at all times, according to a press release from the mall.

The policy targets unsupervised teens loitering at the mall. The intention of the new policy is to make the shopping experience more friendly for families with small children, said Patricia Elmore Edge, Stonecrest general manager, in a press release obtained Friday.

The policy restricting access to Stonecrest based on age is not new. Arbor Place Mall in Douglasville implemented a similar policy in 2007. The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., the largest retail mall in the world, also has a teen escort policy.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group representing the interests of malls, 56 malls out of approximately 1,100 total malls in the United States have this kind of policy.

Jerome McKnight, an 18-year-old in Conyers, said he did not like the idea. He was hanging out with friends at Pine Log Park on Friday afternoon and said Stonecrest's policy seemed unfair.

"They want to get the teenagers out, plain and simple," he said. "If I go with my cousins and we all want to go to different places, we can't do that now."

McKnight said it did not matter to him that the policy was in effect only two nights out of the week - Fridays and Saturdays.

"That doesn't make a difference," he said. "Fridays and Saturdays are the best times to go to the mall."

Larae Upton, a mother of six, said that while she does not go the mall very often, she thought the idea of restricting teens from going there alone seemed like a good policy.

"I wouldn't let my children do that anyway, so it sounds like a good idea to me," Upton said as she was walking out of Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers on Friday.

Edge explained Stonecrest's policy was developed after talking with community leaders and looking at other malls' policies. Edge and other Stonecrest officials visited Arbor Place Mall on Friday to see how the policy works there.

"We feel this effort will lead to positive results, such as more families and business patrons coming to the Mall at Stonecrest to shop, dine and be entertained," Edge said.

An adult over the age of 18 will be able to escort up to four youths, according to the policy, and at least one of the youths will need to be the child of the adult chaperone. Proof of age will be required, and those who cannot provide sufficient identification will be asked to leave the mall.

The policy also covers the AMC movie theater located at the mall, and the purchase of a movie ticket does not exempt a child from complying with the policy. Youths exiting the theater after 4 p.m. on Friday or Saturday must leave the mall property immediately if they are not escorted by a parent or legal guardian, the policy stated.

Mall employees under the age of 18 will be issued a special badge to allow them access to common areas and to come and go to work.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com