COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Some businesses at the Village of Sandhill say loitering has been a major issue, so much so that the number of teens swarming outside their stores at night has affected their bottom line.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department started assisting security at Sandhill in September 2018, but the General Manager at Moe’s Restaurant, Randy Flowers, said it hasn’t helped much.
“It’s definitely impacting the businesses at night when it gets to like 8 o’clock or 8:30," he said. "We shouldn’t even be open until 10 p.m. We should be open to 9, because we are not going to get a lot of business because there is not going to be a lot of people out here willing to shop.”
Police say some of the teens are committing crimes at Sandhill.
“We are seeing narcotics violations, traffic violations, as well as fights every now and then on the weekends," RCSD Deputy Kelly Smith said. "I want to stress to the parents -- be mindful of where you are dropping kids off, or dropping you child off in, and you don’t want your child to even be a part of that environment. And be more aware that people do live around this area too, we want to make sure people are being courteous who do live in this area.”
The Village at Sandhill has a Youth Accompaniment, Conduct and Curfew Policy. But some businesses say it’s not working.
The shopping mall’s policy states, in part: “Beginning at 6:00 p.m. each evening, all visitors to Village at Sandhill who are 16 years of age and younger must be accompanied by a parent or a parentally authorized guardian 21 years of age and older.”
It goes on to say, “Loitering is not permitted at any time. Foul and disrespectful language and inappropriate attire are not permitted at any time.”
In an effort to help ease the crowds, police urge parents to not allow their children to hang out at Sandhill unsupervised.
“There is nothing for them to do that late at night,” Capt. Maria Yturria, with RCSD, said.
Yturria said the curfew age may also soon change from those 16 and younger, to anyone under the age of 18.
“Recently, the law changed that anyone under the age of 18 is considered a juvenile," she said. "So our conversations have been that they are thinking about changing the curfew to match that.”
Teens who visit Regal Sandhill IMAX & RPX are also included in the Youth Accompaniment, Conduct and Curfew Policy.
The policy says, “Unaccompanied youth who exit the cinemas, a restaurant, or store after 6:00 pm waiting for a ride home must remain in the areas designated specifically for that purpose.”
So how are police enforcing the curfew? They can’t, since it’s a policy and not a law. Yturria explained how a violation of the curfew can become a crime.
“When a store owner, or business, or someone has asked you to leave their property because this is private property and you refuse to leave and they call law enforcement, it’s considered trespass," she said.
Aruna Dasgupta, a resident who shops at the Village at Sandhill, said parents need to step up.
“I feel it’s the parents who should be responsible," she said. "I know there is a curfew, but even though there is a curfew I don’t think the kids should be penalized -- kids are kids.”
Flowers said having so many teens on the property at night on the weekends is a problem that needs to be fixed.
“We pay our rent to Sandhill’s and we expect to be protected and we expect for our guests to come out and shop along here and feel like you are safe," Flowers said. "You are not going to shop (when teens are loitering), which is why we have three buildings close down, right around this block down here.”