Official calls mall incident wakeup call
An East Baton Rouge Parish Metro councilman said he will revive an old attempt to strengthen curfews for teenagers, following a brawl at the Mall of Louisiana this past weekend involving about 200 juveniles.
Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe initially proposed the curfew changes in May 2011 because of complaints about teens loitering at the Mall of Louisiana and Perkins Rowe shopping center.
The Metro Council, which had different members at the time, voted against the proposed changes.
“This is kind of a wake up call that shows we need to do something,” Loupe said of the Saturday night incident that resulted in the mall being evacuated. “Legally now, kids that can’t even drive, can stay out past midnight on the weekends, and I’m not sure much good happens after midnight.”
As the law is written, 17-year-olds are considered adults and not subject to curfew laws, Joseph Scott, assistant parish attorney, has said.
Juveniles are prohibited from being out from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. most days of the week except for Friday and Saturday nights, when the hours begin at 1 a.m. and end at 5 a.m.
There are exceptions, however including if the juvenile is accompanied by a custodian; is on a reasonable errand; is at, going to or returning from work; is involved in an emergency; or is attending certain specified, supervised activities.
Loupe’s changes would have moved the current 1 a.m. weekend curfew up an hour to midnight for youths 15 and under. The weekday curfew of 11 p.m. would have stayed the same.
The proposal would have also subjected 17-year-olds to the weekend curfew.
Loupe said he would tweak the item before introducing it to the council in a couple months.
“I want to make sure it’s strong enough to address what I think needs to be addressed,” he said, stressing that the six people arrested from the brawl were all under 15 years old. “There’s no excuse for a parent leaving kids unsupervised. That’s not safe for the kids or anybody else.”
Councilman Ryan Heck, whose district encompasses the Mall of Louisiana, said curfews wouldn’t have prevented the Saturday night gathering because the tumult culminated early in the evening.
He said it’s up to the mall’s management to decide if it wants internal rules to regulate minors.
“If the mall wants to say kids can’t be in the mall after a certain time, then that’s up to that private enterprise,” he said. “I’m not going to legislate responsibility. It’s unsuccessful.”
Loupe said teen curfews wouldn’t have necessarily prevented the weekend incident, but called the measure a “first step.”
“I believe it’s a first step, followed by more stringent rules implemented by the private property owners, along with enforcing loitering and other ordinances,” Loupe said.
Mall of Louisiana officials said Monday they have no plans to enforce a curfew. The mall is on Bluebonnet Boulevard near Interstate 10.
“As part of our efforts and our commitment to public safety, we regularly review our safety program and will amend it as necessary,” Mall of Louisiana General Manager Todd Denton said in an email.
Denton declined to discuss public safety precautions and measures.
“We cannot discuss the specifics of the program because to do so would compromise our efforts,” he said in an email.
Denton also noted there were no reports of injuries or incidents related to the Saturday night event, which was featured in national news.
“At Mall of Louisiana, the safety and security of our shoppers are always our top priorities,” Denton said in the email. “This Saturday, there was an unexpected large amount of people gathered in the food court due to a social media posting. Based simply upon the size of the crowd, the sheriff’s department determined it was necessary to evacuate the mall to further ensure the safety of all shoppers.”
Councilman Joel Boé said he and his family were at the mall just an hour before the crowds gathered.
“It’s concerning. I was there with my wife and four young kids right before it happens,” he said.
Boé said he’d like mall management to consider implementing an internal teen curfew like Perkins Rowe and other malls across the country.
Tony Stephens, general manager for Perkins Rowe, said the shopping center has an 8 p.m. curfew for anyone 17 and younger.
Stephens said he has only been Perkins Rowe’s general manager for about three months but has worked at multiple malls across the country, some of which had curfews and some of which did not.
“We’re trying to create an environment for shoppers that’s pleasant,” Stephens said. “We felt that the curfew worked toward that extent.”
Perkins Rowe is at Bluebonnet near Perkins Road.
Cortana Mall, which is at Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard, does not have a curfew for anyone and does not plan to implement one in the future, said Percy Singleton, the mall’s general manager.
“We have a proactive security team that is there,” Singleton said. “Of course, we are concerned with what has happened recently. We’re watching it very closely, but personally we have no intention of imposing a curfew.”
Hordes of juveniles gathered at the Mall of Louisiana on Saturday evening, apparently in response to a mass invitation on Instagram, a popular photo sharing social network.
Deputies responded to the scene in response to reports of fighting, which led to a stampede of patrons rushing to exit.
The mall was evacuated and law enforcement diverted all juveniles to the open area between BJ’s Brewhouse and Bravo restaurants outside the mall where they waited for their parents or guardians to pick them up. The unruly gathering caused a major traffic jam, and contraflow was put into place on Bluebonnet Boulevard.
The investigation is ongoing, and deputies are uncertain at this time if more people will be arrested in the fight, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.