Witnesses said it was December déjà vu.
More than 100 rowdy teens descended upon Kings Plaza Shopping Center on Monday, mirroring an incident where scores of troublemakers flocked to the shopping center in December last year, yelling, fighting and frightening customers and store managers.
“Basically, it was a repeat of last year,” said Syed Hassan, who works at John Gerald Jewelers.
Hassan didn’t see any brawls erupt, but police got physical with some of the kids, he said.
“Some cops pushed kids away, but I didn’t see any fighting,” he said.
Hassan said the store — like many others — had to put down its security gates and wait out the fracas. The disturbance halted business for hours, mall workers said.
“I was on my break, and I couldn’t eat at McDonalds, because their gate was down,” said Gary Suriel, who works at Aldo.
Suriel said he watched kids trying to start fights, but never saw anyone actually throw down. Instead, he watched cops and security guards trying to corral the high-schoolers before sending them packing. But police officials painted a slightly rosier picture.
“There was not any indication of violence, but just a get-together,” the 63rd Precinct’s Lt. Vito Ardito told the Marine Park Civic Association Tuesday night. “A great amount of these kids were very compliant.”
Police arrested two teens for disorderly conduct, but there were no reports of looting, he said.
“In a crowd, there’s always going to be someone acting disorderly,” Ardito said. “Its the one or two that weren’t compliant yesterday that we had to react to.”
Forty-three police officers responded to break up the crowd, he said. The 63rd Precinct even pulled officers from Manhattan for back-up.
This time, police knew about the flash mob before it engulfed the mall. An NYPD unit that monitors social media gave the 63rd Precinct a heads up days before kids converged on Kings Plaza, Ardito said.
The teens apparently organized around a Facebook event page titled “Kings Plaza Maddness Part 1,” which has since been taken down. Another event page created for Wednesday was taken down that afternoon.
Fourteen police cruisers parked in front of the mall on Monday in anticipation of the mob, but did not dissuade the crowd, Ardito said.
“They weren’t afraid — they came into the mall anyway,” he said. “If there was an army of cops in there, I believe they would have came anyway.”
The lieutenant said police will monitor social media to preempt future incidents.
The brouhaha erupted as Kings Plaza works to mend its image after December’s disturbance and an armed robbery of a jewelry store last week. Now mall management is beefing up security to prevent another incident, said Kings Plaza property manager Steve DeClara.
In a meeting with police, the mall’s management said it planned to invest $3 million in security cameras.
DeClara declined to give any details, citing security concerns, but said mall brass is open to hiring an off-duty, uniformed police officer to patrol the shopping center.
Any large gathering is a violation of the mall’s code of conduct and warrants a police response, DeClara said.
Cops will blanket the mall for the remainder of the week, according to Ardito, but for some, that is not enough.
“I tell my wife not to shop there alone any more,” Marco Panicali said.
©2014 Community News Group
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