Local News

Chaperones or Teen Craze? The Future at The Mall in Columbia.

By: Genna Rippeon

Three years post-pandemic, businesses within The Columbia Mall are back and booming, but the security of mall goers is not. Middle and high school students who lost some of their teenage years to the pandemic are relishing in the freedom of their favorite shops opening up — but at the expense of others. 

Sitting off of Little Patuxent Parkway in Howard County, Maryland, the mall has routinely been a popular hang out spot for teenagers around the area, featuring popular clothing stores such as American Eagle and Pacsun. Additionally, big-name chain restaurants like Chick-Fil-A fill the food court, spreading their aroma of delicious fast food around the mall, attracting people for its one-stop-shop experience.

But in the past months, the mall-goer experience has not been entirely pleasant. Numerous Columbia Mall shoppers have complained about teenagers causing disruptions and in Nov. of 2022, shoppers reported of a group of teenagers firing Orbeez guns around the mall. 

“I think the teens do cause a lot of problems at the mall, and it is a serious problem because fighting people is not what the mall is for,” says Mt. Hebron senior Ashley Luther. 

The alarming number of reports has prompted Brookfield Properties, the company that owns the mall, to consider increasing security in the mall. One of the solutions proposed requires chaperones for shoppers 17 years of age and younger. 

When announced, this plan got mixed reviews. But some avid mall shoppers are in favor of the chaperone proposition from Brookfield. 

Luther, having experienced chaos at the mall, said, “I personally feel that it is very needed for some kids that are 17 and under to have adults with them because of their choices. Kids will also be stealing items at stores which can get them into serious trouble.” 

Mt. Hebron junior Felix Rivers disagrees, not seeking increased prices, nor chaperones. 

“It seems like a bad idea, and I doubt it’ll be enforced effectively or last for long. It seems like it’ll harm business in the area, as the neighboring AMC just raised prices, and this, in my opinion, means [the mall] will become less accessible for potentially the biggest demographic of mall-goers, teens,” said Rivers.  

AMC movie theaters, one of the many unique experiences of the Mall in Columbia, recently announced their “Sightline” program.  The program offers different prices for different seats in their theaters. The higher up seats in the back are priced higher than the neck-breaking seats in the front rows, attempting to section out certain areas. 

Just three years after Covid-19, teens are risking the very freedoms they just got back.

“I think teens are really looking to gain back the independence they lost during the pandemic, and from that they potentially have taken advantage of their freedom by acting inappropriately,” says Rivers. 

The Mall in Columbia would not be the only mall to implement tighter restrictions regarding teenagers behavior. The Towson Town Center uses a curfew policy, requiring anyone 17 years of age and under to have an adult chaperone 21 years of age or older on Fridays and Saturdays from 4-8 in the evening.  

The town center hopes these rules will enforce the “comfortable environment for all of our guests” that they are committed to providing.

While the looming possibility of tighter security at the Mall in Columbia might distract shoppers away from the mall, or limit some teens — it may open up a future of security, and thus, appeal.

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