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Trumbull Mall will have a new curfew for teens starting this weekend

Trumbull’s Economic Development Director Rina Bakalar (above) says that while residents and tenants wanted to see a curfew implemented, the curfew itself has more to do with tamping down on perceptions of crime in the area.
Eddy Martinez
Connecticut Public
Rina Bakalar, Trumbull's economic development director checks documents in June, 2023, as visitors to the Trumbull Mall discuss its future uses.

The Trumbull Mall will soon require minors to be accompanied by an adult starting Saturday, Aug. 5. The new rule is in response to several violent incidents where teens were accused of fighting with each other or assaulting patrons.

Under the new curfew, minors under the age of 17 will need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21.

Only four children over the age of 10 can accompany an adult. But children under 10 are exempt from that rule. The curfew starts at 4 p.m. and is only in place on Saturdays.

NAMDAR Realty, the owner of the mall, said in a statement the new curfew policy came from popular demand.

“This curfew policy has been established in response to feedback from community members and tenants and aims to promote a family-friendly atmosphere for all visitors,” the agency said.

While some residents and tenants wanted to see a curfew implemented, Trumbull’s Economic Development Director Rina Bakalar says it has more to do with tamping down on perceptions of crime in the area.

Carmen Colon, a Bridgeport resident and vice president of the city’s YMCA, said an early curfew ends up robbing teens of a coming-of-age ritual, where teens can practice being independent, away from their parents.

According to Bakalar, the mall owners were thinking about implementing the curfew and the first selectman was also supportive of the measure. But the curfew was also enacted to tamp down on perceptions the mall is unsafe.

“Crime is not necessarily up at the mall. It's just there's a lot more social media discussion when things happen,” Bakalar said.

Public worries over crime at shopping centers aren’t new. The New York Times reportedon a curfew at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota in 1996.

Many of the same worries Trumbull officials have are largely unchanged nearly 30 years later. But, one key difference is the rise of online shopping.

NAMDAR Realty declined additional comment. Ken Sterba is the general manager at the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford, which is owned by Centennial Real Estate Management. That mall previously implemented a curfew, but it’s presently not in effect until the beginning of the school year.

Sterba echoed Bakalar’s comments about how perceptions of public safety was a key factor in implementing a curfew rather than lost profits.

“What you've seen is, over time with the increasing growth of online shopping, and less traffic at the malls, that has become less of a question. And it's become more about the safety of the people that are here,” Sterba said.

The curfew comes as the mall begins to consider its future as a shopping center.Online shopping continues to be a threat, but Bakalar said foot traffic has recovered to pre- pandemic levels.

Sterba said the curfews do have an impact.

“Whenever we implement the curfew, we see a dramatic drop in teen fights, teen altercations,” he said.

While teens do shop at the mall, Sterba said the curfew, when it’s in place, doesn’t impact sales. So far, there hasn’t been much opposition against the curfews in Trumbull and many are supportive of the new policy.

Greater Bridgeport NAACP President Lesly Valbrun isn’t against a curfew and says shoppers should feel safe.

A lot of children end up at the mall just to hang out. Valbrun said he himself spent time at malls as a teen since that was the place to be. But he also says this presents an opportunity to consider creating a safe space for children to hang out.

The New York Times article mentioned concerns over racial profiling because of curfews. Valbrun said profiling is always a risk, but he does not have a problem with the curfew other than wanting to have it start a little later in the evening.

“I don't see a potential issue with how they're going to manage the curfew,” Valbrun said.

Colon, the Bridgeport YMCA vice president and a parent, said she believes the curfew will hurt teens and would end up hurting a time honored coming of age ritual. She remembers dropping her children off at the mall to do their own shopping.

“The mall has been a great outlet for them to explore their independence. And I just think that 4 p.m. is really very early,” Colon said.

Colon said Bridgeport has programs available to teens such as the YMCA, but teens tend to want to venture on their own, away from their parents. She herself didn’t hear about the curfew. But she said her thoughts count too.

“I'm a Bridgeporter; I spend money at that mall. So if my money is accepted at that mall, then my opinion should be accepted as well,” she said.

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