Independence Center imposes new curfew

By Mike Genet

After multiple disturbances and fights stemming from a late-afternoon crowd of an estimated 500 juveniles last Saturday, Independence Center has posted its own weekend curfew for youngsters.

Starting this weekend, juveniles under the age of 17 are not allowed on mall property past 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday without a parent or legal guardian. 

The mall posted on social media that its curfew was “effective immediately and until further notice,” and that minors found unaccompanied by a parent/guardian after 3 p.m. on those days “will be escorted off the property.” 

The curfew does not apply for those working at the mall stores. The mall did not specify how it planned to enforce the restrictions, and calls to mall management office were not answered.

The curfew announcement came two days after the latest unruly incident involving large crowds of juveniles led to 10 arrests and citations, mall security closing the building a half-hour early at 6:30 p.m., and several police departments called to assist with dispersing the crowd. The mall asked police to post on social media: “If you left a child (under 18) at the Independence Center, come get them now.”

Those arrested or cited included six adults and four juveniles. Four of the adults are parents or guardians of unaccompanied teens who were at the mall and were charged, Independence Police said, and they were cited for endangering the welfare of a minor. Other citations were disorderly conduct, interfering with police, assault of a law enforcement officer and providing false information. The assault came from a person jumping on an officer’s back while that officer tried to break up a scuffle. 

Two young adults cited had been with a group of juveniles, police said, and all four juveniles cited had Kansas City addresses. 

Independence Police spokesperson John Syme police are discussing with the mall what role the department might have with enforcement. The mall typically employs some off-duty officers for security, and during the week IPD has two full-time officers there.

Calls for police to disburse large crowds of juveniles at the mall that grew unruly are not unusual, and such an incident earlier this year led to the Independence City Council altering the city curfew. The age of minors under curfew guidelines went from 17 to 18, the Friday and Saturday youth curfew went from midnight to 11 p.m., and a new 9 p.m. curfew was applied to the “I70/M291 District,” which includes the mall and surrounding retail area along 39th Street, Cable Dahmer Arena and the surrounding retail area and the area including Bass Pro Shops and Main Event entertainment center.

The curfew is for unaccompanied minors and would not apply for those running an emergency errand for parents/guardians, returning from work or leaving an organized school, recreational or sporting event or ticketed concert.

“We know most of these kids are 14-15 years old, they get Uber and Lyft rides to the mall and most are from outside Independence,” Independence Deputy Police Chief Ken Jarnigan told the City Council earlier this year about some minors causing problems. Police arrive to break up disturbances, the youths then scatter around the surrounding commercial area, “and it zaps our resources,” he added.

Police then call parents for pick-up, Jarnigan said, “and the parents are as uncooperative as the kids.”