Mall owners may sue over skaters

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2005

The owners of the Peninsula Center Mall on Wednesday threatened legal action against the city of Soldotna if problems with skateboarding juveniles are not stopped by police.

Testifying at the Soldotna City Council meeting, Becky and Glen Martin said they or their employees have called police numerous times reporting trespassing, vandalism and assault incidents involving 12 to 20 teens at the mall and nothing has been done.

On Thursday, Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. said, "We're responsive when they call.

"We're actively trying to resolve this through mediation, which we initiated," Lucking said.

Although the Martins told the council they have had problems with youth from time to time during the past 5 1/2 years, they cited specific recent incidents beginning early last month.

On June 4, Bruce's Street and Skate, a skateboard equipment and apparel business in the mall, sponsored a skateboard competition in the mall parking lot, and following the event, some juveniles reportedly took ramps and other jump equipment and began doing stunts dangerously close to passing motorists, according to Becky Martin.

When mall employees tried to recover the equipment, they were confronted by the youths, who allegedly hit an employee in the shin with a skateboard and threw a full can of soda, striking another.

Two employees reportedly apprehended two of the youths and held them for police, but when police arrived, the employees were charged with assault, Martin said.

She said she told police she wanted them to trespass all the youths on a list police supposedly have containing the names of numerous teens who have been involved in recent incidents at the mall.

Last week, one of the youths allegedly threatened the mall employee and when police were summoned, the officer denied knowledge of the previous incident and said he couldn't do anything about the threats, Martin told the council.

Early this week, two youths got into a fist fight in the mall entryway in front of a man and two toddlers, frightening the children to the point one hid behind a gum ball machine, Martin said.

"This has got to stop. We are not going to tolerate anymore of this," Martin said.

"We need to take our community back from these kids," she said. "You guys gotta come up with a plan. Do something before someone gets shot or gets run over.

"You guys need to do something really quick before this goes to court," Martin told the council.

Glen Martin said the mall is the ninth-largest taxpayer in the city, and he is not getting any police protection.

"This is taxation without representation," he said.

He also said when his employee called police about the June 4 incident, the police said they investigated, the juveniles were gone, and it was OK to come collect the skateboarding equipment.

However, when the employee began gathering it up, the confrontation resumed with the youths threatening to break out the windows on the employee's truck.

"Because the police said it was clear, and it wasn't, we have grounds for legal action," Glen Martin said.

After Becky Martin made her presentation at the council meeting, City Manager Tom Boedeker responded saying all the juveniles were contacted and charged with disorderly conduct.

"Two were charged," Martin said.

Police Sgt. Marvin Towell, who was representing Chief Lucking at the council meeting, said the person who threw the pop can and the one who struck the employee with the skateboard were charged with the crimes.

Boedeker also said the property owner is the party who needs to deliver a written trespass notice to the person being banned from the property, but the Martins said police will not give them the names of the offenders because they are minors.

"This is not going away," said Becky Martin. "The violence that happened to our employee is unacceptable."

On Thursday, Lucking said he has been contacted by Anthony Lopez, a mediator who is arranging for a meeting with all parties involved.

The Martins said they would attend.

"We want to resolve this," Becky Martin said.

"We know there are a lot of wonderful kids in our community, and we realize this is just a few bad ones.

"We just want a safe place for the businesses, for the customers — a place people can come and feel safe."

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