The children are not well, wandering around the mall.
Last Friday, the unaccompanied minors were asked to leave Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, and were escorted to the exits by security guards and police officers as the clock struck 5:00 p.m.
A small army of doormen was posted at each entrance to the mall.
“This is so fucked up,” a teenager complained as cops led him and his friends out of the mall’s food court and into the parking lot.
April 28th was the first day the plaza’s new “Parental Guidance Policy” was launched.
Requires mall-goers under the age of 17 to have an adult chaperone, someone 21 or older, on Fridays and Saturdays after 5:00 p.m.
Those between the ages of 18 and 21 can stay, but must show ID and get a blue armband to indicate they are of legal age.
Underage mall employees must display their store name tags to gain entry.
The policy was enacted in response to “an increase in disruptive behavior” at the mall, which is home to more than 300 stores, including designer boutiques such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, as well as fast-fashion retailers such as Forever 21 and Zara.
There have been fights in real life and rumors on social media.
In September 2022, there were allegedly “five fights and a shooting” in a single day, according to a viral TikTok post. A more recent uproar, in March 2023, garnered 1.2 million on the video-sharing platform.
Supporters of the policy, many of them concerned parents, say it’s a great way to stop the madness at the mall.
But opponents of the mandate, namely the teens it blocks, argue that the rule is downright disgusting.
“It’s unfair,” said Emily, a 14-year-old Bergen County high school student who was accompanied by her mother, Andrea, Friday night. “You should be able to walk around the mall by yourself, and people who start fights should be off limits so they don’t ruin it for others.”
Andrea, who declined to give her last name, said the new policy is necessary.
“It’s been unsafe,” he said. “He [authorities] They don’t have many ways left to stop the fighting. Maybe this will calm him down.”
But, some say that minors are not the problem.
“We have been here several times, and we have seen fights break outbut it did not involve anyone under the age of 18,” Ava, a 19-year-old college freshman from Bergen County, told The Post.
“It’s the older people who are getting into fights,” said her friend Isabella, an 18-year-old from Passaic County. “I’ve never seen younger people start trouble here.”
(Both girls declined to give their last names for privacy reasons.)
The new rule mimics similar “escort” ordinances recently instituted after dark at popular hangouts like the Mall at Robinson in Pittsburgh, as well as theme parks like Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California and Kings Island in Cincinnati.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that youth violence has become all too common and homicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24.
Marilyn Warren, 74, and her daughter Cassandra, 29, visited the mall on Friday and said they were happy with the new rules.
“The dangers are always increasing,” Warren, of Rockland County, told The Post.
“Little girls and adolescent girls can be taken advantage of,” Cassandra added. “At night, the mall becomes a breeding ground for predators. Kids don’t need to go out alone at night.”
Claudia, a 36-year-old woman who works at a decorative souvenir kiosk in the mall, said the new restrictions weren’t strict enough.
“The rule is simply ‘No teens allowed.’ They didn’t say, ‘No weapons allowed,’” said Claudia, who has held a professional position on the lower level of the mall since early 2022.
(The Westfield Garden State Plaza Code of Conduct prohibits firearms on the property.)
Claudia told The Post that she has witnessed at least three mass fights in malls and has experienced several mall closures due to allegations of gun violence.
She believes authorities need to institute strong rules for shoppers of all ages, not just teenagers.
“And now that?” she asked. “Adults can come and do harm.”
He added: “I don’t think [the policy] It’s going to work in the long run.”