Roving packs of punks have long been a disturbing presence in the Augusta Mall. Last Saturday night the hooliganism got way out of hand when a brawl broke out in the mall's food court -- alarming bystanders and shoppers.
After security forces finally restored order, 11 of the thugs were hauled off to jail where, it is hoped, they will be dealt with as harshly as the law allows. A strong message needs to be sent to these mall bullies, who have no regard for anybody but themselves and the tastelessly clad young females who all too often can be seen panting alongside them.
Much of the blame has been put on teen-agers, especially since the problems seem to worsen on weekends and summer break. This is prompting mall officials to consider imposing a 7:30 p.m. curfew for all teens not accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.
That may be a good place to start. Mall curfews on teens in Savannah and elsewhere have brought some peace. Maybe it will work here, too.
Shopping malls, after all, are not a "baby-sitting" service for restless teen-agers who don't have a life. It's a place for civilized people to browse and shop without being harassed or intimated.
A teen curfew, however, doesn't get at the 18-to-24year-old age group -- which may be just as much to blame, if not more, for mall disturbances. Can a curfew be applied to them, too?
If not, is it fair to ban teens during certain hours and not the older group -- particularly if the latter is causing most of the problems?
The issue is more complicated than it appears on the surface. Ultimately mall officials may have to hire more security -- an expensive proposition -- or apply strict standards of conduct: Groups of whatever age who engage in uncivil behavior should just be escorted out of the mall. And if it happens again, make the ban permanent.
The Augusta Mall is still a great place to shop and a huge community asset. It must not be turned into a war zone for rival youth gangs.