Jessica Andryushchenko, 15, was heading into Arden Fair mall with a friend Monday evening when a security officer stopped them and asked if they were with a parent or guardian. They weren’t, and they were surprised to find out their status as unaccompanied minors meant they were barred from entering.
“I thought it was really weird,” said Andryushchenko, who ended up going to see a movie instead. “We weren’t upset. We were just confused.”
The day after Christmas is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and as many as 65,000 shoppers poured into Arden Fair on Monday in search of post-holiday sales. Looking to manage the crowd and prevent fights such as the ones that closed the mall early on Dec. 26, 2014, Arden officials on Monday activated a rule that was recently added to the mall’s code of conduct – during periods of high occupancy, security may require minors to be accompanied by adults.
“We, in the past, have had several issues with safety at the mall the day after Christmas,” Arden Fair spokeswoman Jamie Donely said. “Several issues with fights and other unsafe activity, and so this was our way to make the mall safe on a day when the mall typically has some bad history.”
Donely said mall officials tried to prevent violence last year by bringing in more police officers, but brawls still broke out. So this year, they tried this new strategy, and it looks to have been effective, she said. There were two minor altercations Monday, one inside the mall and one outside, but nothing on the scale of previous years.
The Sacramento Police Department had more than 50 officers at Arden Fair on Monday, said department spokesman Matt McPhail. Each officer was paired with a mall security officer, who enforced the code of conduct as people walked into the mall, he said.
“There’s a pretty discrete group of people who cause a bulk of these problems, at least historically,” McPhail said. “It tends to be teenage boys.”
McPhail said the officers let unaccompanied teens use mall phones Monday if they didn’t have a cellphone but needed to call for a ride.
Donley said she thinks Arden Fair is one of the first malls in the region to institute a rule about unaccompanied minors. A message left for a spokesperson at the Roseville Galleria was not returned.
Monday was the first time Arden Fair’s rule had been put into effect, Donely said, adding that the mall does not have plans to enforce it again in the near future. By Tuesday, the mall was back to business as usual.
“Black Friday is a busy day, but it doesn’t have the same incidents happening,” Donely said. “The day after Christmas seems to be trending around the country. ... It’s not that safe of a shopping day.”
Numerous mall brawls were reported across the country Monday, with local authorities attributing the ensuing chaos primarily to teenagers. In several instances, the situation was made worse by bystanders who misinterpreted loud noises, such as chairs falling over, as gunshots and panicked.
McPhail said the possibility of panicked stampedes is a major reason Sacramento police want to have a presence at Arden Fair during its busiest periods.
When the mall is crowded and a violent incident occurs, people often run and “then the risk is not just to the the three people who have chosen to fight with each other, but to a variety of other people,” including families and small children, he said.
In Elizabeth, N.J., on Monday, someone yelled “gun” after a chair was slammed down during a fight, according to media reports. The brawl and the panic about a potential shooter resulted in eight to 10 people with minor injuries, the mayor of Elizabeth tweeted.
Police in Indianapolis arrested six juvenile females and one male juvenile after a fight Monday at Castleton Square Mall, according to a tweet from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Two malls in Memphis, Tenn., also had melees break out.
In Beechwood, Ohio, a fracas involving several people caused a mall to be put on lockdown for an hour. Police reportedly used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Authorities later tweeted that the disturbances seemed to have been organized on social media.