|Entertainment District owner Fain Signature Group is requiring anyone under age 18 to be accompanied by an adult over 21 after 6 p.m. (Trib photo illustration)|
|Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz|
Fain Signature Group Properties Manager Jeff Wasowicz holds up a “Parental Escort Policy” sign explaining the Entertainment District’s new policy that an adult must accompany kids under 18 after 6 p.m.
|Comments from social media|
|"...There are kids hanging out there for hours on end which is not the point of that area. If they want to hang out and climb on things then there are plenty of parks in this town that were built for that very purpose... They are going after the large groups of unsupervised kids climbing on the water fountain, the benches, and the trees and who are only there to hang out in front of these businesses." - Samantha Leigh|
"...Go spend an evening over there. You will see dozens of 12 and 13 yr olds there just hanging out, not going to Freedom Station or the movies. I believe that's what this new 'law' is about..not the 16 and 17 year olds." - Beverly Parker-Golin
"...I personally think it's a good idea... Parents shouldn't be using this place as a free babysitter. It says the ones going there for the business (movies, games, food) won't be bothered."- Kristin Johnson
Source: Story comments on Daily Courier Facebook page
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Additional Policy Details
~ Entertainment District curfew restrictions begin after 6 p.m.
~ One adult may supervise up to six youths
~ Enhancing video coverage
~ My be Selectively enforced
~ (for minors who work at the ED, or may be on a date - i.e., not loitering and causing trouble)
Unsupervised and sometimes unruly young teens have compelled owners and tenants of Prescott Valley's Entertainment District (ED) to implement a "curfew." Effective Friday, May 23, owner Fain Signature Group, in order to maintain a family-friendly environment, is requiring anyone under age 18 to be accompanied by an adult over 21 after 6 p.m.
But before people panic because their under-18-year-old works at the ED, or may be out on a date, they should know the whole story, and also that the policy will be "selectively enforced."
Signs posted around the Entertainment District, and posters in business windows about the Code of Conduct, now will clearly outline expected behavior in both longtime and new policies. The new policy states one adult may supervise up to six youths. Youths may be asked to show ID to remain in the ED after 6 p.m. The Fain Signature Group also will be enhancing video coverage of the area. Organized youth groups with an adult escort always are welcome, said Fain Signature Group Properties Manager Jeff Wasowicz.
Wasowicz said redefining policies at the ED is not new. After skateboarders battered buildings with their boards, leaving wheel marks and damaging walls, the owners banned skateboards on the premises.
But this new policy comes about because as many as 100 pre-teens and early teens - many just 12 or 13 years old - congregate at the ED on Friday and Saturday nights. That in itself is not a problem, Wasowicz emphasized.
"We really don't have a criminal element," Wasowicz said, who noted he has spent many a weekend night talking to teenagers and assessing the situation. "What happens is, pods of really young teens are dropped off by parents, and not to attend the movies, go to Freedom Station or restaurants, they're just standing around in groups. Sometimes they're climbing on branches or the fountain. They start looking at each other sideways, dropping the 'f-bomb' and things escalate."
The behavior, which sometimes includes drug use and destruction of property, is unpleasant enough to keep some patrons of the theater and other businesses away.
"I've had calls from people who say they used to come on Friday and Saturday nights, but not anymore," Wasowicz said.
The problem isn't new, but Wasowicz really started researching how to solve it about two months ago, talking to Prescott Valley Police, MATFORCE, ED tenants and representatives from Albertson's, where the youngsters often head in groups, as well.
"About a month ago, around 7 p.m. on a Friday, I was talking with Officer Woods (at the ED), when a tricked-out black SUV pulled up, vibrating the ground (from its speakers) and five teen boys hopped out. Officer Woods was in plain clothes, but he showed his badge, because the vehicle was in violation of the noise ordinance. It was the dad, dropping the kids off."
Wasowicz said he further questioned the boys in a friendly way, only to learn the parents were headed for a bar and the kids didn't know how long they would be hanging out at the ED, possibly until 11 p.m., with no plans to patronize any of the businesses.
"We would like parents to take responsibility for their own kids," Wasowicz said.
How malls handle this issue?
He said he called the security people at Arizona Mills in Tempe to learn what policies the huge mall has in place. At one time the mall had a parental escort policy, and hired two full-time police officers, but dropped the policy when the officers incorrectly were selectively enforcing it by targeting even kids who obviously were not loitering or causing trouble, he said.
"The guy said, 'wake up, everything is selectively enforced.' Most kids who are just hanging out are not an issue and there's no reason to go after everyone," Wasowicz said.
He illustrated that in the mall, a senior citizen carrying a covered coffee cup likely won't be stopped from entering a store with a "no food or beverage" sign, while a 14-year-old girl with a slushy drink might be.
Sundogs General Manager Chris Presson called the curfew, "a great thing. It's something that is necessary." He added he often works in his office in the Entertainment District long into the summer evenings and is happy that the curfew will help make the area a safe place for families and kids after the sun goes down.
Mixed public reaction
According to several Daily Courier Facebook posts, some people agree that it's fine that youth under the age of 18 hang out at the Entertainment District as long as the youth are patronizing the businesses within the district. (See Sidebar.)
Having Prescott Valley Police reinstate the bicycle patrol in the ED should help, along with use of the department's Segways, which the Arizona Sundogs have agreed to house in their team store, Wasowicz said. Although he has no statistics from years ago when bike cops patrolled, he said the simple facts that bikes are fast and silent helps officers detect potential problems, and may keep troublemakers away.
Fain Signature Group Sales and Marketing Director Ron Fain agreed.
"It's hard to measure the effect," Fain said, adding, "We just have a lot of kids here at times. The majority of them are not an issue. Law enforcement tells me it's groupings that feed off one (instigator) that can create chaos."
Wasowicz said a January incident where a teenaged boy was seriously injured in a fight was not an impetus for the new policy.
"As terrible as that was, that fight actually started on Facebook, and took place in a well-lit area, next to a road (in front of a doctor's office), so kids hanging around the ED was not the reason," Wasowicz said. "We've had an excellent record, in that was the first serious incident on this property."
They want to keep it that way.
Wasowicz also stressed that police won't ticket immediately for those in violation of the new policy, but will issue warnings for the first couple of weeks. And again, not having a 21-year-old escort is not illegal, but disorderly conduct and trespassing are, and police can enforce those acts when the ED officials ask them to do so.
"An easier way to look at this is as an enhanced loitering policy," Wasowicz said. "We want to keep the Entertainment District a safe, friendly environment so everyone in our community can enjoy all the amenities it has to offer."