CONCORD, N.C. — A major change began Friday at Concord Mills Mall -- anyone underage will need to have a chaperone during certain days and times.
Concord Mills Mall announced earlier this month that it is implementing a youth supervision program following several violent incidents in recent years.
Under the new policy, all visitors under 18 must be accompanied at all times by a parent or adult, age 21 or older, after 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Channel 9 has covered repeated violence and shootings at Concord Mills. Last month, police said a man shot someone outside the movie theater. In 2019, 13-year-old Aveanna Propst was hit and killed by a stray bullet outside the mall.
“It provides the perception to families, visitors and shoppers that the mall is not a safe place to be,” Concord Police Chief Gary Gacek told Channel 9.
16-year-old Lindsey Refsinder and 17-year-old Lauren Mork told Channel 9 they avoid the mall on nights and weekends.
“I heard about fights and the shooting at Dave and Busters, so I just stay away,” Refsinder said.
Gacek told Channel 9 that the policy change was needed and he believes it will make a difference.
“I am cautiously optimistic that this policy is going to be effective at reducing that disorder,” the police chief said.
According to Gacek, Concord Mills is private property, so it will be up to mall security to enforce the youth supervisory program. But if anyone refuses to leave, the police could get involved because that would be considered trespassing.
Resident Janice Sutton shops at the mall and said she hopes the program is successful so she and others can visit the mall safely.
“I do hope the mall will consider other changes that they would need to keep people safe because not all of the violence has been with people under 18,” she said.
Concord Mills said it is committed to providing a pleasant and family-friendly shopping environment for all guests and the program is in response to feedback from the community and community leaders.
The new policy wouldn’t have applied to Dontae Black, the suspected shooter in the murder of Aveanna Propst, because he was 18 at the time. However, the teens Black was accused of fighting with at the mall that night were younger than 18.
The Propst family is suing Simon Property Group, alleging the company was aware of the violence and that her death could have been prevented.
The attorney for Propst family sent Channel 9 the following statement:
“Simon has a legal obligation to make reasonable efforts to protect their patrons from foreseeable risks, and instituting a teen escort policy is an important step to meeting their legal obligation, but it is just a first step, there is much more they must do, and unfortunately it all comes much too late for Aveanna and her family.”
Do youth supervision policies actually work?
Channel 9 wanted to know if youth supervision programs are effective, so anchor Susanna Black went to Hanes Mall in Winston Salem where a similar policy is already in effect.
In 2018, after several situations of violence among teens, CBL Properties, which owns Hanes Mall, implemented a youth supervision program to keep shoppers safe.
The mall’s policy requires shoppers under 18 to have a parent or guardian 21 or older with them after 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and all day Friday through Sunday.
Shopper Gloria Smith and her husband were at the mall Wednesday and said they’ve felt much safer since teenage shoppers have had to be supervised.
“Usually when they are on their own -- even if they aren’t trouble makers -- usually trouble can find them,” Smith said.
WInston Salem Police Department Public Information Officer Kira Boyd told us that the department felt the change was needed.
“They were seeing a lot of youth gathering and when you’re gathering with nothing to do that leads to not good outcomes,” she said. “It really made sense, just in an effort to keep the youth safe and the general public safe.”
Most importantly, Boyd said the new policy is working.
“We have seen extreme improvements in the amount of youth hanging out around the mall and in the mall,” she said. “Small violence has decreased. It’s just been a very good program for the mall.”
The program is working so well, Boyd said the small issues that do arise can be handled by mall security and if police do have to get involved, solutions are typically simple like calling a parent.
Channel 9 reached out to CBL Properties to find out more about the program and its results. We have not heard back.
(WATCH BELOW: Concord Mills closes early due to large group of teens fighting, police say)
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