Monday, April 19, 2010

Is Crossgates Mall Guilty of Profiling?

Last weekend a Guilderland police officer was injured when attempting, with Crossgates security, to arrest 3 students who were violating the mall’s parental escort rule. According to a Times Union article on 4/17/10: Just before 5:30 p.m., Guilderland police officer Paul Mahan responded to a call from Crossgates security detail complaining that three unsupervised 15-year-olds were refusing to leave the mall. Under mall policies, all children younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. When Mahan was trying to put one of the boys under arrest, the youth resisted and a struggle ensued. Mahan suffered a leg injury and had to be transported to Albany Med, where he was treated and released.

This incident got me thinking about why Crossgates Mall put this policy into play way back in July 2006. The mall said the rule’s reason was to “cut down on gang violence, loitering teens, and to create a safer environment for all of the mall’s customers.” Of course retailers had a fit about any rule that would cut down foot-traffic and the number of potential buyers in these peak hours. A few months after the rule was put in place, there was an ugly incident involving Guilderland police tasering a 34-year-old man in the mall, and a nasty riot at a city bus stop outside the mall, involving a 14 year old.

So what am I saying?

The truth: this rule was employed to keep a certain “type” of minor out of the mall. I am not suggesting that it’s a black or white thing, but I am suggesting that Crossgates security practices a type of profiling when enforcing this parental escort policy. In regards to the three boys arrested last weekend, police said, “The three allegedly had been kicked out of the mall by security earlier in the day but re-entered the mall.” I have to believe that these three boys were targeted earlier in the day because of the way they looked and asked to leave the mall. Soon after, the trouble erupted.

I guarantee if three blonde-haired, blue-eyed high school girls from Shaker, Shen or Averill Park were at the mall, sans adult, during those "off-limit" hours, shopping bags in hand, not a single security guard would say word one to those girls. Translation: if you’re there to spend money, no problem. If you look like you’re there to loiter and make trouble, it’s time to put the policy in motion. Hell, maybe it’s a gender thing. Maybe it’s a pack presence thing. Is that right? I don’t know. Is it profiling? It’s the exact definition. Now, before we go further, I have openly admitted in this forum that I have no problem with profiling, at the airport for instance. None at all. When I’m about to board a plane, and I see a group of men who look like Osama bin Laden behind me in the ticket-check, I’m suddenly super-nervous. Sorry. It’s the truth. If you told me they were thoroughly searched and questioned pre-flight, because of the way they looked, fine by me. I feel better.


Because high school girls from Shen and Shaker aren’t shoe-bombing airplanes. And they’re not driving to Crossgates to make trouble on a Friday night either. The baby gangs from Albany and Troy are the ones making trouble. That’s true. In fact, it was a knockdown fight on a mall escalator, involving teenaged minorities from Albany that was the final straw for employing this rule at Crossgates in 2006. But the truth is hundreds of under 18 year olds, who have the right look and right walk, move through that mall after 4PM on Friday and Saturday without a single guard saying boo. But if a teenager’s got baggy pants or freaky hair, or with 5 friends, the guards will be on them like a lampshade.

I believe the parental escort policy is blatant profiling. I believe it because any other way of working this rule would cut into business and make renting retail space a tougher challenge. It’s profiling based on the way someone looks, and it may not be morally right, but it might be necessary. Crossgates is a business. Anything that could hurt or hamper that business should be dealt with or eliminated. I get that. And if the mall tried saying, “Sorry, we just don’t want gang kids who wanna fight and skaters who aren’t here to spend money inside the mall,” there’d be five thousand lawsuits by next Tuesday. Do I agree with the rule? Sure. But in accepting the necessity of this rule one is also reversing the old adage, and in fact, judging a book by the cover. And the mall will surely say it carries out this policy on ANYBODY under 18, regardless of the way they look. But I have heard dozens of examples that prove the opposite. Could these stories be lies? Maybe. But I don't think so.

I guess I don’t understand why we can’t just come out and admit the way a person looks is ALWAYS the first thing we think about. The truth is race is an issue in this country. If not then why is Obama’s election so historical? In his own words: “A historical day in American history.” Why would he say that if not referring to race? Is it historical because we elected someone with hardly enough experience for the Oval Office? Is that what he’s talking about? Again, I’m not accusing Crossgates of racism. But I do believe there is an “official” policy for kicking under 18 year olds out on weekends and an “understood” policy, and the two can so often be very different.

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Brian Huba


  1. If young people can't stop behaving like animals what's the mall supposed to do ? Now it's just one less place for all the mommies and daddies with zero parenting skills to have babysit their little brats.

  2. I worked security at Crossgates for several years, and yes, the rule is designed to keep out 'certain' kids. But you know what? Every Friday night there was a fight. Every Saturday night there was a fight. The kids were loud, profane, and disruptive. Who wants to put up with that? Not Mom & Pop and their family looking to do dinner and a movie.
    So who cares? If you can't like a civilized human being, go hang out somewhere else and let the rest of us go about our business.

  3. Shame on you, Brian Huba, for thinking that blonde haired blue eyed girls from Shaker, Shen or other "upscale" public schools aren't just as much of a threat... Now who's profiling?

    Not that long ago when I was in high school, a thing called shoplifting was all the rage. AND, it tended to be done so by mostly girls -blonde haired/blue eyed or otherwise. Shop for something to get the big bag you needed, then start swiping!

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe shoplifting puts a damper on how much retail stores are selling -forget foot traffic.

  4. Even as a tall, blond, white male I got stopped a number of times by mall security to check my age. I was even 21 or 22 at the time.

    I suggest that you sit down at a bench near an entrance for a few minutes and see who they check coming into the mall. I think you'll find that they check everyone equally.

    Sure the policy is directed at solving a specific problem of predominantly black teenagers causing violence in the mall, but I'd say they enforce it equally.

    Then again I generally go to the mall only once or twice a year so maybe things have drastically changed since I've been there.

  5. I am a 25yr old, 4' 11 1/2" tall, blond hair, green eyed girl who dresses "preppy". I look young so I ALWAYS get stopped and checked if I am alone. So I don't feel like they profile. Idk that's just my opinion.

  6. who are u all kidding....Brian Huba is 100% correct...3 young black males in any mall or store will be looked @ more carfully then any young girls or clean cut boys.....its sad but true

  7. That's utterly ridiculous. I worked at Crossgates as a security guard for a while and at no time, did I or any one of my colleagues ever stop someone based on their race, gender or what have you. If we believed that they were under the age to be allowed in the mall at that time, we stopped them and asked for ID. We stopped everyone equally, without paying attention to race, gender, etc. At no time did I or anyone else I knew that worked there ever profile. That's absurd.

  8. I cannot sit back and be quiet any longer w/your blog comments. I happened to be a mother of a very respectable Guilderland High School Junior who, is not blonde, but has brown hair and is always very conscious of the time when she is shopping at Crossgates because...GUESS WHAT BRIAN...she has been stopped MANY times by mall security when she just isn't out at the time they are supposed to be. I agree with the previous poster..sit on a bench and watch. Glad you aren't teaching my daughter!