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.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=922709#ixzz0lY0jTb6o