Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski responded Friday to Councilman David Marks’ demand that White Marsh Mall institute a curfew for minors on weekends, saying he plans to ask mall leadership to develop its own policy concerning teens.
“Every person deserves to feel safe in their community,” Olszewski said in a statement. “Chief Sheridan and I are actively discussing additional measures to engage residents and address concerns about crime. To that end, I will be talking with mall leadership and will ask them to develop a clear and specific policy on unsupervised youth.”
“As we work to keep our communities safe, we will not point fingers but instead work in collaboration with our partners in the Baltimore region to address public safety concerns.”
His statement came the morning after hundreds of county residents packed into Saint Michael Lutheran Church for a town hall, organized by Marks, following a handful of crime incidents in the area of White Marsh and Perry Hall over the last year.
Among those: the death of a Baltimore County police officer last year, allegedly run over by teens driving a stolen Jeep; an August brawl at the mall between teens and security guards; a September fight that erupted in gun shots and left one person with a stab wound at The Avenue at White Marsh; and the arrests of several teens for disorderly conduct at The Avenue last month.
Marks and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins already stirred controversy by calling for cutting MTA bus service from the city after the August fight, drawing the ire of many city officials and residents who claimed it’s a discriminatory restriction that would unfairly punish city residents. Then-County Executive Don Mohler quickly dismissed the idea, saying pointedly, “It is 2018. Not 1950.”
This week, Marks fielded the curfew plan—which would require minors to be supervised on Fridays and Saturdays after 5 p.m., akin to the policy in place at Towson Town Center—during an interview with WBAL radio. He compared the string of incidents involving teens to the one that prompted a curfew in Towson back in 2016, which similarly drew allegations of discrimination from people who said the policy targets black teens.
“We have been pleading with the owners of White Marsh Mall to implement a youth escort policy,” Marks told the station. While acknowledging some view it as discriminatory, he argued, “The folks who work in White Marsh Mall are of many different ethnicities and races, and they also deserve to have a peace of mind when working there. I don’t consider it discriminatory. I think it’s been effective, and it’s something that White Marsh Mall needs to do.”
He nodded back to his earlier proposal to reduce bus service, but said this is different: “There are many people who live in Baltimore City and are employed at White Marsh Mall. I am certainly not saying—and I don’t think that anyone else is—that we should eliminate the bus service. We understand it’s important for people to get to White Marsh Mall.”
Marks said he would discuss with Bevins and others whether it would be necessary to propose legislation requiring a youth curfew. If so, that bill would likely apply to “all shopping centers of a certain size and type” across the county, not just the mall in White Marsh.
Asked to clarify what other “clear and specific policy on unsupervised youth” could be enacted that doesn’t amount to a curfew, Olszewski’s press secretary, T.J. Smith, wrote in an email Monday, “The County Executive supports a Parental Guidance Requirement or PGR, which is different from a blanket curfew. He believes that children should be accompanied by a responsible adult at appropriate times.”
In an August Q&A with Baltimore Fishbowl, Olszewski said that he would pursue a regionalistic approach and consider both city and county needs if he were elected county executive.
“I recognize that if the city isn’t thriving, the county won’t be thriving,” he said. “We can do that in a way that doesn’t lose sight of the challenges facing us in Baltimore County, addressing our unique needs. But while we’re addressing Baltimore County’s needs, we can be a partner to Baltimore City.”
This story has been updated.
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