Suburban malls on alert following fight outbreaks
Security staffs at suburban malls are on heightened alert, but not in a panic, following a series of large teenage fights inside malls across the country, including one Monday night at Aurora's Fox Valley Mall that resulted in eight arrests.
It's not yet known whether these fights are linked or just a coincidence. In the meantime, police officers and security officials at suburban malls say they are keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.
At Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, management met this week to discuss whether the mall should more strictly enforce a rule that states teens under the age of 16 must be escorted by a parent or guardian over the age of 21.
No decision has been made yet, said Stratford Square Mall Marketing Director Stacy Kallas.
"We haven't had any problems, and we really want (the mall) to be inviting and family-oriented," she said. "But safety and security of the customer is our No. 1 priority, hands down."
Kallas said many malls have that rule, known as the parental escort rule, but it's rarely enforced.
Stratford already has more security than usual for the holidays, including Bloomingdale police officers hired by the mall. Kallas said there is no plan at this time to bring in additional security.
That's the case in many suburban malls, most of which also use camera surveillance as a security tool.
There have been no problems at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, but the mall's security staff and Vernon Hills police officers are on alert and prepared to "take swift and immediate measures to control any actions that compromise a safe and enjoyable shopping experience," Assistant Marketing Manager Jenna Mallars said in a statement. "Reports of disruption and violence at any shopping center are very disturbing and we take such incidents very seriously."
At Woodfield Mall, there have been no incidents of violence or rumors of fights this holiday season, said Schaumburg Police Chief Jim Lamkin. His department maintains a good relationship with mall security, and Schaumburg officers are trained on how to handle emergencies at the mall.
The Gurnee Police Department has a substation in Gurnee Mills mall that includes a visitor-oriented policing unit. Those officers maintain close ties with Gurnee Mills tenants to share information and crime-prevention strategies. The police and Gurnee Mills security meet regularly and periodically conduct training, according to police officials.
• Staff Writers Eric Peterson, Russell Lissau and Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.