Loitering teens irk residents near Carrolltowne Mall

October 19, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Unruly teens, loitering, drinking and night-time carousing on the parking lot of Carrolltowne Mall are disturbing the peace of an Eldersburg neighborhood.

After petitioning the mall management, Maryland State Police and county officials, residents are considering boycotting the financially troubled mall.

"We hate to penalize the businesses, but we are running out of options," said Kathleen Horneman, whose home on Gemini Drive faces the rear of the mall. "We have enough anger and energy in the community to do this."

Mrs. Horneman cited incident after incident. Just last week, as she returned from a PTA meeting, she found two teen-agers straddling the rail fence that separates the community from the mall. As the boys passed a bottle back and forth, they laughed loudly enough for residents to hear.

When she asked the boys to leave, they made obscene gestures and shouted offensive words, she said. Then they dropped the bottle and staggered away, she said.

"They were no older than 14, and they drank a fifth of Jim Beam," she said. "This was a school night, and I wondered, 'Where is their mother?' Wouldn't she smell that alcohol when they got home?"

Mrs. Horneman, a mother of five, has asked herself similar questions over and over as teens and young adults -- some with babies -- flood the mall parking lot every night, disturbing residents with loud noise, vandalism, drinking and cruising.

"Parents pull up in front of my house, drop a carful of kids off and say, 'Be back at 11 p.m.,' " she said. "The mall closes at 10, and these kids have nothing to do but wander."

Often, they wander through the neighborhood of well-maintained homes.

"We have had tires stolen, our cars egged and BB guns shot through our windows," she said. "Several cars were vandalized with materials stolen from a mall construction site."

The problem has existed for about six years and worsens every summer, said her husband, Paul Horneman. When the family moved here in 1979, theirs was the sixth home to be built in the development, and Carrolltowne Mall was a small strip shopping center. Now, 259 houses border an enclosed mall, which includes two anchor stores, a grocery and a six-screen movie theater.

"It has become a victim of its own success," Mr. Horneman said.

Success might not be the word the mall management would use. Maryland National Bank bought the center last November, when its former owners defaulted on the mortgage. The bank's subsidiary, South Charles Realty, is trying to sell the 298,383-square-foot mall.

Mary Ellen Gearhart, president of the Carrolltowne Community Association, met with the mall's management and security officials in August and relayed suggestions from community residents, including construction of a wall to separate the parking lot from Gemini Drive.

"They said that would cost about $30,000 and was not an option," she said. "The present management is there for upkeep. Until somebody buys the mall, things may stay the same."

In response to residents' concerns, the mall has agreed to

increase security and post "No Trespassing" signs at all entrances, said Lisa Walters, mall manager. That amounts to little more than a Band-Aid, residents said.

"Most of the problems occur when the mall closes, often after midnight," Mrs. Gearhart said. "We are not blaming anyone. This is a joint problem, and we all need to work together."

Much of the problem stems from teens with "nowhere to go," said Mrs. Gearhart.

"Most of us in this neighborhood know where our kids are at night, and they are not at the mall," she said.

She suggested finding alternatives to hanging out at the mall.

"Why does the community have sock hops for children in third grade and nothing for teens?" she said. "Somewhere, there is a solution to all this."

Paul Ciepiela, who has been in charge of mall security for two years, said neighbors' complaints were based on past incidents and misunderstandings.

"People mistakenly thought security was here 24 hours a day," he said. "Along with the state police, we are combating this problem."

Without being "tyrants," mall security asks minors to follow its rules, but "monitoring these kids after hours is literally impossible," he said.

Frustrated residents make many midnight calls to the state police, who said they have stepped up their efforts.

"People need to get involved, cooperate and coordinate with the police," said 1st Sgt. Steve Reynolds of the Westminster barracks. "We can gather information and help residents file charges, but we can't become the community baby sitters."

The police will prosecute offenders, including underage drinkers, he said.

On Aug. 7, state police raided the parking lot, chasing teen-agers away with 10 police cars and K-9 units. No one was arrested.

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