YWCA Madison opposes the curfew implemented this summer at East Towne and West Towne malls in Madison. The curfew prohibits youth age 17 and younger from being present in the malls after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays without a parent or legal guardian.

This curfew is yet another push out of youth, particularly youth of color, from community spaces. This curfew allows youth to be excluded from our community, by literally forbidding them from occupying the property.

Laws are already in place to protect mall businesses and customers. It is already illegal to shoplift and act disruptively. And the laws are being used: The most frequent municipal violation tickets issued to youth ages 12 to 16 in Madison are disorderly conduct and retail theft. Additionally, the private security guards at both East Towne and West Towne — guards employed by the very businesses supporting and implementing this curfew — have a history of discriminatorily treating and ticketing youth of color.

Some argue this is purely an economic issue: If youth don’t spend money in the mall but instead go there to be with friends, then malls have a right to prohibit them. We challenge that position. First, youth spend money. Go to West Towne Mall during the school year at lunch time, and you would see hundreds of teenagers from Memorial High School shopping. Second, hanging out with friends and window shopping at the mall are things done by every generation across this nation. Non-shoppers are welcomed at the mall, to exercise or use the playground. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, our national health agencies, recommend mall walking — intentionally going to the mall with no intention of purchase anything. Here in Madison, social service agencies and walking groups meet at the mall with no purchase requirements.

So why this curfew? With shoplifting and disorderly conduct already illegal, and with the police comfortably enforcing these laws, we urge all Madisonians and mall ownership to ask: Who are we protecting when we create this curfew? Who are we criminalizing? The only youth currently not being ticketed are the youth not doing anything wrong. These are the youth who will now find themselves impacted. With this curfew, we are now criminalizing all youth, making it a crime to simply be a certain age in a certain location, regardless of actions.

We also question how this curfew will be implemented. What will security do when an individual does not have an ID, even if they are over 18 years? How will that individual be removed from the property? What if youth are separated from a parent or guardian while inside the mall? Will teenage workers be allowed to go to the food court for dinner during their work break? Given the history of disparate treatment of youth of color, and given that adults of color are less likely to have a driver’s license or photo ID, we are highly concerned that these seemingly neutral policies will exacerbate the disparate treatment of communities of color.

YWCA Madison asks East Towne and West Towne malls to rescind this curfew. Alternatively, we invite everyone to find other locations to shop.