Vicksburg Police, bowling alley owner weigh in on unaccompanied minors at Uptown Vicksburg

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Last Friday night, Vicksburg Police officers were at the front entrance of the Fun Lanes bowling alley at Uptown Vicksburg, formerly the Vicksburg Mall.

The officers were checking identification and turning away children who were underage. This action came after an announcement posted on the department’s Facebook page at 6 p.m. that day. The announcement, attributed to Chief Penny Jones, read:

“ATTENTION

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TO ALL PATRONS OF THE VICKSBURG MALL,

IN AN EFFORT TO MAKE OUR COMMUNITY SAFER FOR OUR CHILDREN, THE VICKSBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCING

MISSISSIPPI CODE 97-5-39.

FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL LEAD TO A FINE OF $672.25 PER CHILD.

PLEASE DON’T DROP YOUR CHILDREN OFF AT THE MALL. THEY MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT OR GUARDIAN.

CHIEF PENNY JONES”

Mississippi Code 97-5-39 pertains to contributing to the neglect or delinquency of a child. An accompanying graphic on the post also specified the age range as 18 and under.

Andres Aguirre, the owner of Fun Lanes, said he and the mall management partnered together in an effort to prevent loitering on the premises. He added that the two parties agreed the best thing to do would be to not allow unaccompanied juveniles on the premises after 7 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The bowling alley closes at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 9 p.m. on Sundays.

“The (juveniles) were coming into the mall and my business and loitering. They were not bowling or contributing to my business,” Aguirre said. “They would go to the bathroom, vandalize at times, smoke marijuana, you know, stuff like that.”

He added, “It was really tough to control such a big crowd of kids.”

Aguirre said that he has hired security for the past two years. However, they had trouble making sure everyone in the establishment was safe. He also mentioned that his security could do nothing about minors loitering in the parking lot.

Aguirre told The Post that he approached mall management about the situation after one incident in particular. That the prior weekend, his security staff notified him that a fight had broken out in the parking lot outside the bowling alley. He told security to not try and intervene, but to notify law enforcement.

Deputy Vicksburg Police Chief Charlie Hill spoke on the matter as well, explaining that VPD is not taking the place of security officers at the mall.

“The mall closes at 8 o’clock. And at the bowling alley, you have to be 18 or over to come in if you are not attended (to by an adult),” Hill said. “We’re not security for the mall. Make sure that’s clear. But also, when we get a call for service, we come there and make sure that everything is going the way it needs to go.”

Hill also said he wanted to clarify that the purpose of the VPD’s presence was not to dictate who is allowed in the establishment. However, Hill said that when the mall is closed, and an unaccompanied minor is not allowed in the bowling alley at those times, it is then the responsibility of the department to ensure the safety of that minor.

“And again, if we see something, especially kids, it’s our responsibility to stay there until we notify the parents,” Hill said.