ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA) – A community concerned about a recent disturbance that closed down the Anderson Mall is sparking some change. Police and mall officials met with church leaders about it Wednesday.
“A lot of disrespectful youth,” said Chief of Police Jim Stewart. “But the officers were very respectful. There were no hands on confrontations.”
“There weren’t kids being chased by dogs or getting tased. You know, you get some young people and they see drama somewhere, they will probably get there quickly,” Pastor Jason Wilson, of Rejuvenate Church inside the Anderson Mall, said. “It is just an idol time, so the mall becomes a great place for them to get together.”
Chief Stewart says he has reviewed body cam footage from the incident at the mall. He says officers cleared all disturbances and closed early for the night Saturday within just 20 minutes. Out of 40 teens involved, no one was arrested.
“If you are there at the mall for legitimate business, fine. If you are there to cause problems then it has become an issue and we will deal with it,” the Chief added. “There is an outlet for the teens to go to. We want to focus more on that.”
Not long after the incident, a petition circulated online calling for a teen curfew at the mall.
Police say after a meeting with mall officials and local church leaders, right now, there won’t be a curfew.
Instead they’ve agreed to step up patrols with officers in and outside of the mall on weekends, and with the help of Rejuvenate Church inside the mall, they hope to redirect the teens’ attentions.
“We want our community to feel safe coming to the mall,” Chief Stewart explained. “What we want to do is just involve the community. Ask [the teens] hey, what is going on? Why are you just hanging out here? Let’s get you down here where you can have some fun.”
Rejuvenate Church is offering free food and activities for the teens inside Anderson Mall on Saturday nights. There are other local pastors that have volunteered to be there over the weekends to help.
“You know there isn’t necessarily a quick fix that will happen overnight, but if we can begin to provide a place to let these kids know we care about them, invest in their lives positively or maybe give them some structure that they don’t get elsewhere,” Pastor Wilson said.
The Anderson Mall released a statement about the efforts to curb any more problems:
“We applaud the Anderson Police Department for their efforts to keep our community safe. Our collaboration with law enforcement, city leaders and mall retailers is crucial as we strive to make Anderson Mall and the Anderson community the best it can be.” – Phil Alldredge, general manager of Anderson Mall
Police do not believe these fights or arguments were planned.
We have requested body cam footage from Anderson Police of their response to the mall fights through the Freedom of Information act.