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Walden Galleria to Require Adult Escort for Teens

By Joyce Kryszak

Cheektowaga, NY – Teens will soon need an adult escort to hang out at the Walden Galleria on Friday and Saturday nights. Galleria officials announced Thursday that a new escort policy will go into effect beginning September 6th.

What some have described as mall daycare will soon come to an end at the Galleria. Beginning next month, teens 17 and younger who visit the mall on weekend nights will have to be chaperoned. While mall officials are calling it a parental escort, the guidelines say the escort must only be an adult who is is at least 21 years old. Picture IDs will also be required.

James Soos, general manager of the Walden Galleria, says the policy is needed to help curb a growing problem.

"On several occassions we've had what I would characterize as groups that were several hundred deep in terms of kids that are coming to the mall to hang out on the weekend evenings," said Soos. "In some instances they've been very disruptive with some fights breaking out throughout the center. And it has been very intimidating for customers and tenants alike, with behavior like that."

For now, the parental escort policy will only apply on Fridays and Saturdays from 4pm until close. One adult will be allowed to chaperone up to five teens.

There are exceptions. Teens will not need an escort while working at the mall or to access the theatre or any stores with exterior entrances.

Soos says the policy will be subject to review and possible revision. But he says the policy, which is being used successfully at other large malls throughout the country, has the backing of most mall tenants, the Cheektowaga police and concerned parents.

Leonard Lane is President of F.A.T.H.E.R.S. -- a Buffalo- based parent volunteer group that helps supervise teens at the Galleria. He says the Galleria has been criticized in the past for security matters involving city youth. But he says this is not a black and white issue.

"You have to actually come out here and see it for yourself, to see that it is a safety issue that we're looking at, not only for the children, but also for the shoppers," said Lane.