SACRAMENTO -- Supervisors at Arden Fair Mall are defending a new policy that has some shoppers upset, denying claims from a few shoppers that the new rule discriminates against some mall customers based on race.
The new rule would allow security personnel to stop minors from coming into the mall without parental supervision if the mall is extremely busy, which angered some shoppers, who call the policy a veiled attempt to prevent minority groups from entering.
When security told Ranejia Smothers she wasn't allowed inside Arden Fair Mall on Monday, she was surprised to say the least.
"I come here all the time. That was the first time, I was like, that's weird,” said Smothers, a black teen.
Ranejia and her friends were turned away at the door.
"They stopped us and it was like, we were only girls, so I was like well what would we do?" she said.
The mother supervising Smothers and her friends Tuesday question whether the mall is really going after minors or if they're targeting people based on their race.
"I feel like it could be a racial situation, I really do,” said Sanquella Augustus.
"It's untrue. We went after every minor we could. I couldn't say we were specifically targeting a race,” said Jamie Donley, senior marketing manager at Arden Fair.
Mall officials not only deny race plays any factor, they stand by their policy as a safety measure. The policy would only be in effect on extremely busy days, like the day after Christmas or Black Friday, days when the mall sees upward of 70,000 shoppers.
Donley brought up an incident four years ago, the day after Christmas, when a large fight broke out at the crowded mall. A sign fell, which sounded like a gunshot, and a mass panic ensued. The fight was started by teenagers.
"The worst day as far as incidents happening is the day after Christmas,” said Steve Reed, the retired, former head of security at the mall.
He says the majority of disruptions at the mall start with groups of teens.
"This year we felt this rule will kind of help PD enforce what they need to do to keep the mall safe,” said Donley.
Though the rule is designed to keep shoppers safe, according to mall officials, not all shoppers feel reassured.
"If we didn't have to come here today, I probably wouldn't have come,” said Augustus.
Mall officials took heat in 2009 for controversial new rules that banned hoodies and sagging pants at the mall, something many shoppers also found racially discriminatory. Those rules are still in place today. Mall officials say their one regret is not making the public more aware of the new policy before Monday.