MILL BASIN — A mall in Brooklyn has instituted extra security measures after hundreds of teenagers swarmed the shopping center earlier this week in a rowdy flash mob, and community leaders were set to hold a rally opposing the occassionally violent outbreak on Sunday.
Kings Plaza Shopping Center in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn was overrun by a large group of teenagers — local site Sheepshead Bites reported up to 500 of them— on Thursday evening around 9 p.m., about an hour before the mall closed. The teens started fights, damaged property and harassed shoppers and vendors according to those who witnessed the scene.
“It was a big group, maybe over a hundred people,” said Yusuf, a vendor who did not want to give his last name. “The police were trying to control them, but they can’t really touch them because they are young. Mall security called the NYPD which dispersed the crowd.
Community leaders were set to hold a protest Sunday at 1 p.m. at Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U, near the mall's Best Buy store.
"I do expect to be joined by some parents who are concerned that these actions will reflect negatively on their teens who had nothing to do with the riot," said Tony Herbert, a community activist, who also hoped to see elected officials come out "as well as other community leaders to stand with me to denounce this act all together."
On Friday, the mall instituted new safety measures in response to the wild behavior. Security officers refused to admit anyone under the age of 18 without an adult escort. It was unclear if that policy was still in place on Saturday. However, security guards were visible at all entrances and posted throughout the shopping center. In addition, groups of auxiliary officers patrolled the mall and its vicinity to prevent further incidents.
Gloria, 35, comes to the mall at least once per month and said she noticed the changes.
“I saw two cops in the mall and the security officers were posted right at the front,” she said. “There were definitely not as many people in the mall as usual either.”
Several vendors agreed that business was slow for a Saturday, especially during the holiday season. However, not all of them minded the changes.
“It’s a good idea because when you have these big groups of teenagers, they’re just walking around and looking. They’re not really shopping anyway,” Yusuf said. “If it’s two or three of them together or with family, that’s find, but if it’s 10 or 20 people, it’s bad.”
Many teens said that they were fine with the increased security, but disagreed with the decision to ban teens that weren’t accompanied by adults.
James Rosario, 15, came to King’s Plaza to meet a friend. Normally they hang out at the mall he said, but they decided not to because they had heard about the possible age restrictions through Facebook.
“This is the first time anything like this has happened here so I think it’s just a big panic about it,” he said.
Cheyenne, Selicia and Paige, all 14, came to the mall with a parent but were allowed some time to shop on their own.
“It’s not fair because we don’t behave like how those kids were,” said Cheyenne. “What they did was kind of wrong, because this is a public place and someone could have gotten hurt, but we shouldn’t get punished for other people’s actions.”
“This is a place where we hang out. We come here at least once a month to meet up because the three of us go to different schools,” she said.
Although the girls had no trouble gaining entrance to the mall, they did feel signaled out by security.
“They were looking at us when we walked in and it’s like, ok, we’re not doing anything,” Paige said. “They looked at us really suspiciously.”