VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Lynnhaven Mall’s new chaperone policy is now in full effect. The Parental Guidance Required (PGR) program kicked off Friday afternoon.
Public safety officers stood at the mall’s entrances checking IDs of anyone who looks underage. The new rule requires kids under 18 years old to be with an adult when shopping after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Thomas Washington, 16, was turned away Friday because he wasn’t with a parent or someone who’s 21 or older.
“It’s kind of weird because I’ve always come here since middle school just to hang out with friends,” said the Virginia Beach resident. “This is a spot where most kids, we come to connect on the weekends because we have nowhere else to go."
The chaperone policy comes after several fights broke out at the mall the day after Christmas causing it to close early.
Virginia Beach Police said a group of teens kept fighting that Saturday evening. No injuries were reported and there wasn’t any gunfire, but it was still an alarming scene for some.
Krystan Ries was working at the mall on December 26 when she said she saw at least one of three fights break out that evening.
“It was a little scary; I’m not going to lie,” Ries said. “It was two times where there was crowds and they kept screaming and they were running inside, or the other direction from the fight.”
Ries said she’s seen several fights take place at the mall over the last several months.
“It’s kind of typical for Saturday night, honestly,” she said. “We’d have to shut the gate halfway when there was a bunch of fights because we had at least one every weekend.”
Angela Merrick is a mother of two teenage girls in Chesapeake. She believes the new rule will curb violence.
“I think it’s good; I think it’s good,” Merrick said. “I think it’ll keep our kids safer. In this day and age you want your kids to be safe, and if that’s the rule they have to implement to help keep them safe, I’m with it.”
Not only were trained public safety officers keeping watch outside the mall, but they were also inside checking IDs and asking teens if they were with adults. Additionally, announcements were being played over the intercom system reminding people of the new policy.
Jiovanni Sansone, 16, said he understands why the rule was put in place, but believes it’s unnecessary.
“In my personal heart, I feel like it’s kind of like gatekeeping and definitely makes me feel like I’m a baby again, like I have to be watched over just to start shopping and buying shoes or something like that.”
For anyone looking to get into trouble at the mall, Washington has a message.
“Don’t come to a place where you know everyone loves to hang out at just to start dumb stuff,” Washington said. “I’ve seen a whole lot of fights break out here and it’s very unnecessary. If you’re going to get into a fight, that’s between you guys to talk about and you guys to handle on your own, not for the whole world to see.”
One adult can chaperone up to four people and must always remain with them while they're at the mall.