Questions about curfew, supervision at malls arise after Wolfchase shooting

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Violence at Memphis malls is nothing new.

One of the biggest questions from the shooting at Wolfchase Galleria is why are teens allowed inside the mall unsupervised.

Officers faced many challenges Tuesday night. First was securing the scene of a shooting, but one of the biggest issues was getting the hundreds of unaccompanied kids at the mall to go home.

"Because it's so cold, they congregate in the malls. So there for when you get that many kids into one place there is bound to be a problem because you have possible gang activity, children coming from different neighborhoods, and therefore you are going to have confrontation," Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said.

Police said Tuesday night's shooting was the result of two fights. The first starting in the food court and another near The Cheesecake Factory that led to the shooting.

But many are wondering, after a second year of violence the day after Christmas by teens, should an adult chaperone be required for kids of a certain age? Wolfchase Galleria's owner, Simon Malls, never returned WMC Action News 5's repeated calls and emails to answer that question.

"Parents are going to have to start taking responsibility. Now, I am going to tell you part of the issue is a lot of the parents are working, so therefore, they don't have the possibility to go to the mall with their children. But at that point that's when my children would stay home," Williams said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's office released the following statement about Tuesday's incident at Wolfchase:

"This type of violence is unacceptable.  That's why Mayor Strickland has worked so hard to recruit and retain police officers.  In January, for the first time in six years, the Memphis Police Department will have a net increase in officers.   He supported state legislation to increase penalties for violent offenders.  But the mayor has also increased programing at our libraries, community centers and through our Workforce Investment Network to give young people positive options.  Reducing violence in our city is a community effort, and the mayor has shown that he is committed to tackling this problem head on.  It's a priority."

Last year on the day after Christmas, both Oak Court Mall and Wolfchase Galleria were rocked with disruptions.

"Law enforcement's job is not to raise your children. I'm gonna say that again. It is not our job to raise your children. That is your job," Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings said in January speaking to parents.

Rallings made that statement while Memphis City Council members grilled him and other Memphis Police Department brass over two mall incidents involving unsupervised teens.

Back then, police said two groups were throwing gang signs at Wolfchase Galleria and a falling chair sparked a stampede. At Oak Court, teens ran through the mall and vandalized it.

In January, MPD was critical of mall security at both Oak Court and Wolfchase saying it was lacking.

"The mall has an incredible responsibility to make sure they have the proper practices in place," Rallings said in January.

Police said they'd meet with the malls about security.

"Safety is a priority at Oak Court Mall. Our relationship with MPD is stronger than ever, " said Charles Silver, general manager of Oak Court Mall, which is owned by Washington Prime.

He went on to say that security efforts have stepped up since late September.

With MPD officers in uniform present at all hours, the mall is operational along with their own third party security.

Despite that added effort, a Facebook video at Oak Court Mall went viral in November -- when teens could be seen flashing guns.

Williams said there are not enough genuine youth initiatives in this city that actively engage the kids.

When thinking of the events that took place Tuesday, Mandy Powell of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Memphis said that's why organization's like the one she works for are in Memphis.

The club serves more than 4,500 kids in targeted areas of at-risk youth. She said it's been a success, especially among teens.

"We have 100 percent graduation rates for our high school seniors. They graduate on time and with a plan for the future, and that's really what we try to work and adjust with our youth," Powell said.

And while programs like that are helpful, former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said the shooting at Wolfchase is a reminder that they can only do so much.

"One, there's a deterioration of the fabric of the black family. We might as well admit that. We have some educational challenges, we have poverty, we just have a plethora of problems that are not just going away with simple solutions," Herenton said.

He said it's up to political, church, and civil leaders to step up and make a difference.

"We need leadership, at some level, to pull all of these constituents together and to have the focus--the kind of focus that I saw on removing statues, the kind of focus and the passion that activists and the clergy had--we need to have that around addressing the ills of the black youth in this community," Herenton said.

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