Saturday, March 10, 2007

Personal Security Part II: Reign in the Teenagers!

Who among us has not at least on one occasion faced the threat of an unruly group of teenagers, noisesome in their manner, disruptive in their conduct, and generally tasteless in their garb? Gathered about outside moving picture houses, indoor mall (lifestyle center!) food courts, and sidewalks in front of fast food eateries, these rowdy young adults intimidate passersby, making it impossible for law-abiding citizens to go about their appointed business.

Er, what I mean to say is, isn't it annoying when packs of kids make life difficult when you're just trying to buy some khakis at the Gap? (On sale now, since they'll probably be out of business by the end of the year!) It's especially annoying at malls, where for some reason kids have decided they need to gather. Well, to be fair, suburban American life has eliminated in large part any possibility of communal space for teenagers, so it's hard to fault them for creating it where they can. Nevertheless, unsupervised teenagers can be a real hassle, and it drives away adults remarkably effectively.

Anyway, I guess this was enough of a problem at the Mall of America. The Star Tribune reports that the MOA has an excellent, well-enforced, and effective policy that requires people under 16 to be accompanied by an adult on Friday and Saturday evenings. Emphasis on the "well-enforced". They're really serious about making this policy work. If you can believe the people quoted in the article, most folks are happy about it. Personally, I think it's a great idea!

But let's not forget that teenagers' desire for a gathering space is a legitimate need. In today's America, there is very little public space. This is a particularly acute problem for teenagers. They need places where they can enjoy each other's company without the nanny-like big brother presence of us grownups. Is it sad that malls have become the de facto hangout for kids? I think it is a bit. Can we find any solution for this mess?


Anonymous Rumsfeld Solutions said...

Chaperoned Zones

1. Public Space Terrorists

Teens loitering. Teens being rowdy and rude. Teens engaging in public displays of affection. Teens shoplifting. Teens, teens, teens... The complaint list could last as long as it takes one to read the Illiad & Odyssy -- or to pacify some unnamed Middle Eastern country. All this public-space terrorism makes me want to ship those darn teens to Camp Gitmo for the summer. But I digress! Aside from some overly defensive parents and a sect of educational-expert-type apoligists, most normal folks would agree that teens are bothersome, noisy, exasperating and sometimes dangerous. Well, what does this all have to do with urban policy? Gosh-darn-nit, I have an answer. My proposal keeps in line with Mr. Gross' running discourse on public spaces. Gunfire and tactical assault - Go!. Uhm, I mean drumroll please...

2. Known Chaperoned Zones

Chaperones! Yes, chaperones. The good ole days when parents had to pony up and make sure their kids behaved, in that social normative I think we have a solution. Of course, we could update things with the latest body armor for parents to guard them from IEDs (Insufferable, exasperating drama). People, I learned my lesson, and in shopping malls we need boots on the ground. The ratio should be one parent/guardian for every 5 teens. Teens probably won't like this, but that's tough beans. The world has become too much about them and not enough about us! (A phenomena that has to do with consumerism and the spending power of teens. However, that's an entirely different conversation.) Parents and guardians, as a matter of public policy, should have to exercise more direct custody over children and teens. It is an adult world where adult rules and responsibilities apply -- not a place where teens may roam unsupervised. Public spaces should be designated "Chaperoned Zones" and kids without chaperones should be treated as Iraqi fighter jets in no-fly zones. Harsh? Hardly.

3. Known Unchaperoned Zones

I am not a fascist, I'm a get-real-ist. People, nowadays we have greater responsibility for the security of shared spaces. Now private spaces are for private decisions, as far as I am concerned. Reign as much hell in the comfort of one's home to one's heart's content. Knock yourself out or up, I say. But when a parent lets some snot-nosed kid into the realm of the "real world" and the rest of us are forced to deal with the fallout, I take umbridge.

4. WMDs (why malls decline)

O-mama I bin Shop-laden... That's right, you heard me. These public-space terrorists, pushing anoerexic extremism, will sooner or later get a hold of WMDs and your credit card. American, you have been warned.

8:36 AM  

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