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IRON BARS HELP MALL’S EFFORTS TO BAR TEENS FROM SIDEWALK

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Armed security didn't intimidate them.

Blaring classical music didn't drive them away.Now, mall managers and city officials say they may have finally found a method to discourage unconventional teenagers from staking claim on the sidewalk by Crossroads Plaza.

In July, the plaza, the Downtown Alliance and Salt Lake City Police Department installed around concrete planters lining the street 17 black iron fences costing almost $17,000.

Crossroads Marketing Director Dave Zukowski said business people, shoppers and passers-by complained about the aggressive panhandling by the youths, many sporting nose rings and purple mohawks. So, they conceived a plan to flush out the gathering youth.

So far, Zukowski said, the plan has worked. Fewer youths congregate near the planters and fountains.

"I think it has helped the situation somewhat, but they (the bars) aren't a cure-all to the problem," he said. "The kids have just scattered a little bit. The bars have helped to alleviate the situation."

"We have heard many office workers spending a lot of time downtown are absolutely intimidated by that element. They are so intimidated that they avoid the street," said Brad Parkin, Downtown Alliance program director. "Naturally, people are fearful of gatherings like that. The kids mean no harm; they are there to just hang out and be seen. But they are intimidating as a whole."

Parkin said the push to clean up the sidewalk has turned into a battle with the black leather-clad youths. When the bars were first installed on the cement boxes from 100 South to South Temple, however uncomfortable, they sat on them anyway, he said.

"I don't know if we'll ever get the kids away from there, so we are always looking at new ideas. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done legally."

When the bars were first placed on the planters, mall retailers and Salt Lake business people frequenting the food court in the mall were hopeful the teenagers would tire of sitting on the thin, black railings.

Instead of gathering on the bars, the teens have moved closer to the entrance way. And they are none too happy about it. Mark Gardener, who works in a men's clothing store in the plaza, said that although fewer unruly youth line the sidewalks, the black metal cages are unsightly.

Parkin said bushes will be planted to beautify the planters.