The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Jack King 

Theater manager looking for patrols

 


Abby Parrish, manager of Allen Theaters, said groups of young people tend to gather at the mall and North Plains Cinema 4 and take part in fights, vandalism, flashing gang signs and robbery.

Fights, vandalism, flashing gang signs and robbery — it’s all just a day at the mall for some Clovis young people, according to Allen Theaters manager Abby Parrish.

Parrish — whose mall theater was struck by robbers three times this summer, twice successfully — said large groups of young people, some of whom are gang members, are hanging out at the mall, creating disturbances and committing crimes. And Clovis police lag in responding to complaints, he said.

Police department Deputy Chief R.E. “Bart” Bartosiewicz said officers respond promptly and he called Parrish’s complaints overblown. But he also said police are plagued by a lack of personnel.

Parrish said he feels sure many of the crowd of young people gathering around the theater are gang-related, because of their style of dress and the colors they are wearing. The problems they create include “cutting seats in the theater, cars getting broken into and cars being vandalized,” he said.

Trouble with young people became more acute in the winter of 2002 and continues at about the same level, he said.

“One time, in May 2003, we had 20 kids outside with four fights breaking out on the north side of the building. It took police 40 minutes to show up,” Parrish said.

“I’ve asked for drive throughs, but they don’t happen very often. All I’m asking for is a police presence. I realize they can’t spend a whole lot of time here, but they could do a drive through,” he said.

Bartosiewicz said police do perform drive throughs as a regular part of patrols.

“We go through the parking lot at the theater and at other merchants’ buildings, but if he’s looking for special treatment, we don’t have enough personnel,” he said.

Bartosiewicz said the only record he can find of an affray at the theater resembling the one Parrish describes indicates officers responded to the scene in 12 minutes.

According to police records provided by Bartosiewicz, of the approximately 256 calls police answered at North Plains Mall in the last year, 18 were for “public affrays” — the category can be any kind of fight. Ten were for criminal damage to property; two were for a “request to remove subject;” one was for an assault; and 16 were for theft, not counting shoplifting. None of the categories differentiates between crimes committed by adults and those by minors.

Bartosiewicz calls that record “pretty normal for all the businesses that are there.”

The police department maintains a substation at the mall. Bartosiewicz said it is not regularly staffed, because of the limited number of Clovis police officers.

“If we have enough people on the street, they take their breaks there, and we’ve used it as a place to take statements,” he said.

North Plains Mall Manager Cindy Banister she does not feel problems with young people at the mall are out of control.

“If there’s an issue with teenagers, we’re going to call in security or the police. Otherwise, we love to have teenagers here shopping at the mall,” she said.

“We have a very good relationship with the police. Whenever we have called them, they’ve always responded promptly,” she said.

 
 

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