One mall official said the dances have been a great success.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- A small police altercation after a teenage party at Southern Park Mall won't put a damper on future youth activities there, mall officials said.
By day, the mall is like most any other shopping center. Bargain hunters go from store to store in search of a good buy, trendy clothing shops, department stores and record stores vie for passing shoppers' attention and there are plenty of restaurants to appease the hungry.
For the last three months, however, Sunday nights have brought a change.
After 6 p.m., when the mall shops are closed, tables in the food court are pushed to the side, music is brought in, the lights are turned back on and throngs of teens from across the area hit the dance floor from 7 to 11 p.m. Some of the food stores in the food court even remain open to serve the young crowd.
Pam Ferguson, the mall's marketing director, said the weekly dances were a joint venture between the mall and Mid-America Entertainment to give young people a fun outlet.
"We think this a good opportunity for kids to be entertained in a safe environment," she said. "The dances have been very successful. We have had so many kids show up that we have had to turn some away."
Those large crowds of enthusiastic teens may have led to a police altercation Sunday that left one township officer bruised and sore.
According to police reports, Glenn Patton and other township officers were attempting to clear the mall parking lot just after 11 p.m. Sunday when the last dance ended. Some partygoers, reports say, started taunting a township police dog and were ordered to leave the area, but one man argued with officers and eventually shoved Patton.
Patton attempted to arrest the man, and a struggle took place. The officer reported a bruised right leg and sore body after the episode.
Joseph Parker Jr., 20, of Youngstown was charged with felony assault on a police officer, and misdemeanor resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing. He pleaded innocent Monday in Boardman area court.
A second man, 19-year-old Donte Mauldin of Youngstown, was also arrested on a domestic violence warrant out of Youngstown.
Ferguson said it is important to remember that the episode happened outside of the mall after the dance. She said the dance is still a fun and safe activity for young people and will likely resume during the holiday break in school sessions. A final summer dance may be held this weekend, she added.
"No matter what is going on, we are always concerned about the safety of people at the mall and that is why we provide adequate security," she said. "We have held 10 of these dances and kids feel safe here. That is why they continue to come back and their parents are willing to drop them off and pick them up."