North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road, stopped allowing people to enter the building about 7:30 p.m. on March 23 after a flash mob, organized on social media, brought more than 100 unsupervised juveniles to the shopping center, resulting in fights and disturbances inside the building and the arrest of one man.
Harvey Ahitow, general manager of the North Riverside Park Mall, confirmed that a “trend” message, distributed on social media websites, was the reason so many juveniles began appearing at the mall in the early evening.
The first report of disturbance came in at 7:15 p.m., with officers from Riverside and North Riverside responding to the center court area of the upper level where large groups of juveniles were gathering and a group of girls were reported to be fighting.
As officers and mall security were attempting to control the situation and detain one of the girls, a man allegedly charged and tackled officers, knocking over a group of people.
That man, who reportedly was the father of the girl police were trying to detain, was eventually subdued using a stun gun and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Other police units from Stickney, Forest Park, Cicero, Berwyn and Lyons responded to help maintain order until about 9:45 p.m. as juveniles left the mall in groups and headed east into Berwyn and onto buses.
North Riverside Park Mall endured a similar incident in late December, and Police Chief Deborah Garcia said social media “trend” messages have become more frequent, although they don’t always result in a major incident.
Police and mall officials have had some success getting social media platforms like Facebook to take down the trend posts, but not always. After seeing a trend post circulating on March 22, Garcia said North Riverside hired back additional officers for Saturday and notified surrounding agencies.
Mall officials were enforcing their youth escort policy on March 23, but juveniles were able to enter through stores like Penney’s, which do not necessarily enforce the policy.
Ahitow said mall management continues to work with police and stores, including the new Round One family entertainment complex, which is a draw for younger patrons, to solve the problem.
“Round One is new to the party, so we’re not sure exactly where they fit into the picture,” Ahitow said. “We’re all working toward a resolution.”
But he expressed frustration that those coming to the mall in response to flash mob posts on social media are doing so expressly to cause trouble. He said he’d like to see juveniles who refuse to leave the property arrested and charged with trespassing.
“They’re coming here intent on causing problems,” Ahitow said of the flash mobs. “It’s premeditated. If they don’t leave when they’re asked, it’s trespassing, and we need to lock them up because they’re so freaking disrespectful, it’s unbelievable.” VFP
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