Things were peaceful Saturday evening at the city and state’s biggest shopping mall Castleton Square. For four hours I walked all around the huge nearly forty year old mall on Indianapolis’ northeast side. The crowds were normal, but far less than the previous Saturday. But there were hundreds walking, talking, interacting and yes maybe doing a little shopping. Castleton Mall has become a reflection of the strong diversity that Indianapolis has become. Whites, Blacks Hispanics, some Asians mixing together in what has been the norm – peaceful. But last Saturday evening that wasn’t the case. There was a larger than normal influx of teens and young adults walking inside the mall. One fight broke out inside the mall and another fight occurred outside across 82nd Street at the McDonald’s. The TV and newspaper stories brought strong expressions of concerns from the community. Despite the perception that Downtown Indianapolis is a critical economic engine for Indianapolis, Castleton is the main retail sales engine for this city and region. Circle Centre and Keystone at the Crossing may have more cashe, but for mall owner Simon Malls and parent company Simon Property Group, Castleton is a bigger prize. Not only is Castleton the state’s largest mall, but it anchors a four mile long high end retail strip down 82nd and 86th streets between I-465 and Keystone that generates at estimated a quarter of all the retail sales generated in Indianapolis. A sum approaching a billion dollars annually. In the wake of the mess at Castleton, the City had no choice but to ramp up the police presence. While walking the mall Saturday, I saw IMPD officers out in force, but in the background. There were walking patrols by IMPD officers, but there were plenty waiting in reserve ready to spring if there was trouble. Mall security was beefed up with security guards at every major mall entrance to enforce a special policy limited groups of teens and young adults to groups of four. I was a little put out because when I first walked the mall between 4pm and 5pm all the mall security persons I saw were white. No racial diversity whatsoever. Three hours later, though, I noticed that three African-American mall personnell had come on duty. But the lack of diversity in mall security disturbed and concerned me. During my stay in Castleton, I walked the mall with IMPD Chief Rick Hite and grassroots youth leader Rev. Malachi Walker of Young Men, Inc. Chief Hite was pleased at the positive behavior and attitude of those at Castleton this Saturday as was Rev. Walker. But Rev. Walker, the Chief and I were concerned at what we felt was the lack of clear communication by Castleton Mall of the rules and Code of Conduct for mall shoppers. Signs, with very small type, are spread out in the mall, but hard to see or find. The mall’s website doesn’t clearly spell out the Code of Conduct, unlike other malls in the country and around the world. Earlier in the week there had been confusion about how Castleton would handle security. The mall wanted to limit groups of teens and young people to four individuals per group. There was some trepidation by community leaders how Castleton would handle that. After some leaders met with mall management Friday afternoon, Castleton provided enough mall security to handle the job in what the Chief, Rev. Walker and I observed to be in a non discriminatory manner. Teenagers hanging in a shopping mall aren’t just an African-American problem. In talking to store personnel at Castleton they told me of similar problems at malls like Hamilton Town Center at 146th and I-69, an outdoor mall where predominantly white teens congregate in front of stores and intersections and mall security are constantly getting them to move along and break up large groups. At that mall parents “drop off” their teens and kids and pick them up hours later. Something that happens at shopping malls from coast to coast and involves white kids, Black kids, Latino kids, Asian kids. The problem of teens hangout at malls even occurs at shopping malls overseas. Chief Hite and Rev. Walker agree with me that we must find more positive things and activities for young people in Indianapolis. To provide an alternative places where they can hang out and meet their friends other than a shopping mall. We all agreed as did employees of stores at the mall of the importance of parents teaching and explaining to their kids the importance of appropriate behavior in public, including at malls like Castleton. Saturday was peaceful at Castleton. Crowds down. But with Spring Break time here the police patrols and security will continue to make sure the city’s biggest retail sales district maintains its vibrancy and strength.
Tags: 1st person at Castleton » Amos Brown » Castleton » Castleton Square Mall » IMPD » IMPD Chief Rick Hite » Rev. Malachi Walker » Simon Malls » Simon Porpoerty Group » Teen Violence » teens in shopping malls