Waterfront enacts curfew for minors

As of Feb. 20, the Pittsburgh Waterfront will be imposing a new curfew on individuals under 21 years of age. According to their policy document, this change aims to "deter disruptive activity" and promote a "family friendly environment."

The Waterfront is a large open air shopping mall located on the outskirts of Pittsburgh proper, with its property split between the boroughs of Homestead, West Homestead, and Munhall. The shopping center is managed by BIG Shopping USA, a subsidiary of a multinational corporation that manages shopping large retail centers. BIG USA is headquartered in Arizona and lists the Waterfront as one of the five locations across the country that they operate. Located on the site of the former Homestead Steel Works, this massive shopping center opened in 1999 and currently lists 84 businesses on their directory.

According to the new policy, individuals under the age of 18 will not be allowed in the mall after 6 p.m. unless accompanied by an adult over 21; additionally, individuals under the age of 21 will not be allowed at the mall after midnight. The policy explains that those found in violation of this policy will be asked to leave and may find themselves banned from the Waterfront. Furthermore, those who refuse to leave may be charged with trespassing. It also appears that under the new policy, mall security and law enforcement reserve the right to ask for ID from anybody who appears to be under the age of 18, explaining, "proof of age will be required if age cannot easily be determined."

According to Emily Wittmer, general manager and director of marketing for The Waterfront, this new policy aims to address large groups of unattended minors causing trouble in public spaces. "We do get large groups, and then there is concern that things may happen when those large groups come through, especially without parental guidance,” Wittmer said in an interview with Pittsburgh's Action News 4.

This comes shortly after Mayor Gainey announced plans to increase police presence in Downtown Pittsburgh. Local business owners raised concerns that a rise in street violence has been driving away business, pointing to two shootings that occurred this past January. In response, the City of Pittsburgh began supplementing their patrols of Downtown with Allegheny County police officers. Similar concerns were raised by business owners on the South Side, who recently used their time in front of state legislators to demand greater police presence in the bar-heavy neighborhood around E. Carson Street. They allege that unruly crowds of people, predominantly underage teenagers, have been disrupting the peace and causing violence near their businesses.

Other cities face similar issues. In December, a violent altercation claimed the lives of two children near Atlantic Station, a mall in Atlanta of similar size to The Waterfront. This, followed by a later incident in which a large crowd of unattended children caused significant disorder at the mall, prompted a change in the mall's youth policy, which now includes a 3 p.m. curfew for unattended children and a 9 p.m. curfew for those under 21. This is in addition to an 8 p.m. curfew for children under 16, which is in effect for the entirety of Fulton County.

This January, nearly 7.7 million dollars in state funding was secured from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to support efforts to decrease youth violence in Allegheny County. The Waterfront curfew demonstrates an increased desire to address youth crime through law enforcement, as business owners throughout the city raise continue to raise concerns over this issue.