Teenagers who spend Friday and Saturday nights at the Christiana Mall will soon have a new crowd to hang out with: chaperones. On July 11, the Mall will begin enforcing a curfew that requires everyone under 18 to be escorted by an adult over 21 on Fridays and Saturdays after 5 p.m. The curfew is designed to cut down on crowds of loitering teens.

Teenagers who spend Friday and Saturday nights at the Christiana Mall will soon have a new crowd to hang out with: chaperones.

The mall, in Newark, will begin enforcing a curfew on July 11, barring anyone under 18 on Fridays and Saturdays after 5 p.m., unless they are escorted by an adult over 21.

Security guards will be checking identification at all mall entrances and patrolling the concourse, kicking out any unescorted teenagers who might have slipped past the checkpoints, said Steve Chambliss, Christina Mall senior manager.

Teens with chaperones will be given wristbands and allowed inside, but they must stay with their chaperone at all times, Chambliss said. One chaperone can accompany up to four teens.

The curfew is intended to cut down on crowds, said Chambliss.
Teeming throngs of teenagers, sometimes more than 2,000 at a time, usually pack the mall’s common area on Friday and Saturday nights, but most aren’t shopping, he said. They run around the mall, climb on the benches and pick fights with each other, making it difficult for people who are shopping to squeeze through the aisles, he said.

“It becomes a hangout instead of a shopping mall,” he said.

Chambliss is not worried about losing business from teens. In fact, he thinks the curfew will improve revenue, because it will be a calmer place where people can come to shop, instead of avoiding unruly teenagers.

However, Teen Research Unlimited data says otherwise: teens are big spenders.

Their study reports that America’s teens spent $176 billion last year, a significant percentage of it in malls. Two-thirds visit a mall at least once a month.

But despite teenagers' mall-heavy spending habits, mall curfews are not a new concept.

Christiana will be the 54th in the nation with one – the first in the greater Philadelphia area – following a trend that began in the mid-1990s and received national attention when the largest mall in the country, Bloomington, Minn.’s Mall of America, adopted a curfew in 1996.

Chambliss said the Mall of America proved a curfew can be successful. And although the curfew is a change, it is not as dramatic as it may seem, he said. The Christiana Mall is open 80 hours a week, and it restricts teenagers for only 10.

“We are definitely inviting teenagers here. We want them here,” he said. “We are just saying bring an adult.”

"Not fair"

Brandywine Hundred resident Sara DiSabatino, 17, said the last thing she wants to do is shop with an adult on weekend nights. Imposing a curfew is not fair, she said.

DiSabatino’s mother, Kim, said the last thing she wants to do on a weekend night is baby-sit a giggling group of teenage girls while they window-shop.

DiSabatino visits the mall two or three times a month, usually to stock up on trendy clothes, but she also meets friends because it is a fun place to hang out, or at least it will be until July 11.

“The mall thinks all teenagers are untrustworthy, but it is not all of us,” she said.

Cody Burchfield, 14, a Newark resident, agrees.

“The teens that cause trouble, the mall should keep a record of them instead of punishing everyone,” he said.

The Christiana Mall has always been a hangout for teens and it is wrong to try and change that, said Katie Brown, 14, of Newark. She typically goes to the mall every Friday night to shop and hang out, but the curfew may put an end to all her fun.

“Now we’ll have to find something else to do,” she said.