Harassment, Age and Mental Illness

This can be a slippery slope.  On the one hand, you have to be aware of behavior that makes the majority of customers uncomfortable.  On the other hand, you have to know what behavior is acceptable or not and whether one’s mental capacity allows for it.

Working at a mall I’ve had a variety of experiences in trying to keep everyone comfortable and happy while taking into account mental handicaps.

I’ve had to explain to customers that no, I am not kicking someone out of the mall just because you don’t like that they’re wearing a long coat and look like a ‘columbine shooter.’ They’ve given no reason to be asked to leave and there is no rule saying they can’t wear a long coat.  My personal rule of thumb has been that if someone is dressed to receive a lot of attention, they are less likely to try and do something illegal because everyone is already watching them.  (I’ll be writing about style vs. security in another post)

But the same goes for behavior.  Everyone deserves to be able to get out of the house and go out in public.  Depending on ones’ medical/mental issues, you may have a caregiver with you.  I know that having physical/medical issues does not mean that one is mentally deficient, and I’ve always treated those customers as such.  I have no problem walking them to a non-automatic door and helping them out, or picking something up for them, or moving something so they can get out of a tight spot; that’s just being a decent person to another person.  I do take issue with people that have a designated, qualified caregiver with them, but then are abandoned or ignored by the caregiver and left to cause a scene or trouble, when it is completely not their fault!  We had that happen at my both my 1st and 2nd malls.

1st mall.  There were yells of a fight in the food court.  Myself and a new officer were on duty.  We rushed over and found 2 men holding down a much larger man on the ground on his back, one at his arms, one at his feet.  The man on the ground was so strong that he was lifting them men up when he flexed his feet and arms!  We asked the 2 men what was happening.  They said it wasn’t any of our business.  This was a Saturday in the middle of the mall; everyone was watching the show, and it was embarrassing!  We finally got it out of them that they were caretakers with a local home for the mentally handicapped and they had brought a van of their charges to the mall for a field trip and this was one of their charges who was throwing a temper tantrum.  I asked if there was someone we could call to get them more help.  They would not give us the name of their company or a number.  We asked if we could help control him.  We tried talking to him, telling him he had to behave and be good.  But he was in a rage and actually got a hold of the caretaker hold his arms, biting his forearm.  We decided to call the police, because the caretakers could not control their charge and we didn’t want him getting loose and hurting other customers, nor could we take the responsibility of physically intervening.  The police got there fast and a big, burly officer started talking to the man.  It must have been his tone of voice because the man went meek and listened to the officer’s every word!  The caretakers were finally able to let him up and the man was as obedient as could be to the officer.  He actually told the officer he was upset because the caretakers had not let him buy a certain toy (the caretakers explained that he hadn’t had enough money for it, and had gotten violent when they explained he couldn’t have it)  It turned-out there were about a dozen people from the home with another caretaker at a nearby table.  The officer told them it might be best if they brought the man back to the home.  The caretakers started arguing with the officer, but we agreed too, that it might be best and the better behaved ones were welcome to stay.  The Officer went out with them to the van, and this is where it got interesting:

There was another mental home resident in the van!  Apparently, he had been misbehaving and the caretakers left him in there, not allowing him to come in the mall as a punishment.  I think at this point the police pushed for information from the caretakers about who they worked for.  While they were doing that, they put their first charge in the van where he and the one already in the van promptly started fighting!  Apparently, the two didn’t get along and they thought it wise to bring the two on a field trip together!  I think the entire group ended-up leaving at that time and the home was investigated for abuse of its residents.

My issue with this entire incident was bringing such a large group of mentally handicapped people out at the busiest time on the busiest day with inadequate staff to handle them.  At my 2nd mall, there were similar groups who had a least 1 caretaker to ever 2 residents.  This group didn’t have enough staff and didn’t seem well enough trained to watch the state of their charges and make sure they weren’t getting overloaded or overstimulated.  My 2nd issue with the scenario was when our security supervisor found out, he said that we let the stand-off go on for too long and that we should have pepper sprayed and handcuffed the man to keep him subdued!  (he was an older gentleman and may not have had the same type of training that myself and newer officers had)  I had to explain that that would have been like putting gasoline on the fire; he would have thought he was being attacked and would have reacted without thought or restraint.  I had to explain the strength of the mentally handicapped because they don’t recognize how to hold back; that this man would have been a raging 5-year old in a 6 ft tall body.  I also asked him, how would that have looked in front of all those witnesses, and what would the local paper have read?  “Local Mall Pepper Sprays Customer With Down Syndrome”  ???  I think I made him understand, but he still grumbled about us ‘not being able to handle 1-man.’   Sigh.  In any case, the mall forgot about it within a week, and I don’t think that home did another field trip to my mall so long as I was there.

2nd mall.  A very outgoing young man was in a wheelchair after suffering brain trauma that damaged his motor function and impulse/self control.  He had a caregiver who was supposed to take him to the mall to socialize and be in public, so he could re-learn appropriate behavior.  The problem was she left him to go shopping so he would get into trouble by being inappropriate with people and having security called on him, when the caregiver was not there to correct him!  Now the employees and security knew him, knew his issues, and knew that he was not a threat.  But the random lady that he followed around the store talking too even when she asked him to go away DID NOT, and was scared.  Though, I’m not sure how scared you have to be of someone in a wheelchair with limited muscle control… Mostly, it seemed to be husbands and boyfriends who got offended on their behalf.  A lot of times, we responded, let them know that his behavior was completely out of his control, page his caregiver, and hand him over.  I did NOT like that she would scold him and tell him to remember for next time; lady, you explained to us that he WON’T even remember what he did wrong in 5 minutes, and you expect him to remember this lesson for the next time?  I wish I had thought to report her to his family or whatever company she was from, but it didn’t occur to me and I don’t think she would have been very free with that information.  But, in this scenario security understood that the man meant no harm and did not deserve to be kicked-out of the mall.

2nd mall.  In a second scenario, we had another young man who was notorious for following women and going into areas of the mall that were off-limits to non-employees.  He was slightly mentally disabled, but was employed at a nearby gas station and perfectly able to travel by himself and know the difference between right and wrong.  He had a fascination with shoes, and we’d get calls from stores on behalf of female customers complaining about a man watching them and following them.  In several instances, a female customer would turn around and nearly trip over this man, who was kneeling on the floor to look at her shoes!  About half the mall stores had banned him because he had a habit of following female employees into employee-only areas, and making customers uncomfortable.  Security would approach him and remind him what he was doing was wrong and ask him to leave for the day.  This is where we knew that HE knew what he was doing; he would go out one door, but then circle back through a side door and sneak back into the mall.  He was smart enough to watch us patrol and figure when he could get into a store he was banned from without us stopping him.  Several times it almost came to blows because he was caught following a woman and was confronted by a husband or boyfriend; we had to intervene and explain his mental issues, which certainly was not our job or responsibility!

In this scenario, he KNEW he was breaking rules, and should have been banned from the property.  But for some reason, for at least 3-years, mall management would not let us ban him.  I think they believed that he didn’t have as much control over his actions as we knew he did, and that he would come back on property anyway, forcing us to waste our time calling the police, filing trespass paperwork and having to go to court.  We tried to argue that wasn’t making the female customers feel safe more of a priority than pandering to to this man?  And what would happen when we had to go to court when someone finally punched him for following a woman, and it came to light that we ‘allowed’ this man to ‘harass’ customers and employees for year?  On deaf ears the arguments fell.  It took until the day the man followed one of the mall manager’s wife to stores off-property, and to her home, that he was finally banned.

In the first case, the man did not understand he was being inappropriate.  In the 2nd case, the man knew, but kept doing it because he kept getting away with it.  We had a 3rd scenario (This will inspire a later post about ‘Ageism’) with a group of elderly men that met at the mall almost daily.  About 8 of them would circle some benches and socialize for about 2-hours a day.  They always chose the same benches at the same part of the mall.  They were all widowed and, sometimes, loudly discussed ‘modern day’ women.  And not in very gentlemanly terms.  They were also all half-deaf, so when they thought they were ‘whispering’ about a passing woman, it actually carried half way down the mall!  We actually got complaints from female store employees that would not walk down to that end of the mall on their breaks for food because they would have to pass these men!  Strangely, we had rules governing the moving of mall benches, and rules about the congregation of groups of 4- or more non-related people, but we were never allowed to make this group of men move along.  The stores nearby suffered because nobody wanted to pass them to get to the entrances of these stores.  They also never put their benches back after their ‘meetings.’  We were just told that they were ‘old and didn’t know better’ and they weren’t causing any harm.  I wanted the mall management to have to explain to a complaining female customer why we couldn’t do anything about the men wolf-whistling and calling ‘Look at the legs on THAT filly!’ regardless of how old they were!  In my opinion, they knew perfectly well that they made people uncomfortable, but they figured that because of their age they were due respect without having to give it in return, and since we never addressed the behavior, it continued and got worse.  The group was still meeting when I left that particular job, and nothing had changed.

2nd mall.  We had a 3rd somewhat regular customer and her caretaker come in on occasion.  This was a woman, younger, who seemed to have control issues and what seemed like tourettes almost.  They were ‘mall walkers,’ I think the caretaker thought it was good exercise for the woman, who was a little heavy.  But whenever they were in the mall, the woman was constantly repeating lines, sayings, phrases, sometimes at yelling volume.  I recognized some of what she was saying as movie lines.  She seemed to have this impulse to repeat a line over and over…for hours.  Her caretaker would hush her when she started getting loud, but in another few minutes she’d raise her voice again and it would scare the daylights out of whoever she was walking near!  I don’t know what kind of movies she had been watching, but once I heard her voice screaming “(Movie Character’s Name Here) MUST DIE!!!”  Again, security had to field questions from concerned customers about the woman, and explain that she just couldn’t help her outbursts.  I just wish her caretaker would have kept her volume down, or tried to limit what she repeated and/or taken her outside when she got too loud.

And there were the times when security would get called for an issue regarding someone who we did not know what mentally disabled, and then got ripped by family for our ‘insensitivity.’ Or in this case, a situation that was blown out of reality.  Security got a call from a store at the end of the mall for a screaming child.  They couldn’t see where it was coming from, but wanted to make sure everything was ok.  My coworker and I started walking that way.  He got around the corner where the short, pained-sounding screams were coming from first.  He walked around the corner, I could see him look, then he walked back to me before I saw for myself.  He explained that it was a possibly mentally handicapped teen in a wheelchair with his family letting out the screams at random and there was no issue.  So we walked over to the store and let them know that everything was all right.  They thanked us and we walked off.  We weren’t in the area for more than a minute, and didn’t come within 30 ft of the family; it had been a straight line of site from where we rounded the corner.  A little while later we got a call from the mall office.  They said that an angry family came and complained that security FORCED them to leave the mall because their handicapped son was being fussy and that we were following them around the mall because they were ‘Black’ and they demanded a gift certificate for each member of the family!  Luckily, everything we did on patrol was put in our daily logs.  We explained exactly what happened, that we had responded to a call of a possible child in distress and left as soon as we saw the situation.  We never ‘followed’ them and never told them to leave.  Management didn’t give the family a thing.

Then you have your average teen or fit-throwing adult who is asked to leave the mall for their behavior.  Oftentimes, stores would ask why we kicked them out so quickly when we allow (insert mentally handicapped regular here) to behave the same way.  We had to explain about tolerance for behavior that was outside their control and add that how would that look in the local paper “popular mall kicked-out injured mentally handicapped man.”  That would go over well with PR, wouldn’t it?

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Uniform Standards

I know I’ve mentioned before that many people use security work as a stepping-stone into other careers.  But still, doing so is not an excuse to look unprofessional in uniform.  They may not be military standard, but you should take pride in your appearance while wearing them, the same as any other job where you might want a wrinkle-free suit or a crisp blouse.  If you don’t take the uniform seriously, people wont take you seriously!  My supervisor at my 2nd job never wore his uniform (I’ve seen this twice, neither person was ever taken seriously); he wore a polo shirt and pants and put his security badge on his belt like an off-duty police officer.  His pride took a beating when witness and police would not defer to him, instead talking to the Officers he was in charge of; it was mostly because he didn’t LOOK like security; just some nicely dressed busy-body from one of the stores.  I’ve worn 4-uniforms so far and took pride in every one.  I’ll admit I’ve like some better than others.  Polyester can be hot in the summer, but it dries quickly and holds a nice crease.  I cannot get a polo shirt to hold a crease on the arm!  I prefer cotton pants the winter and get them a few sizes larger so I can wear thermal underwear underneath.

Washing and hygiene is important!  I had one coworker who wore the same uniform each day for weeks that at the end of each shift he just left laying at the bottom of his locker; it was no longer white but yellow.  Other coworkers wore t-shirts with logos under the white dress shirt instead of plain white undershirts; you could easily read the ‘Just Do It!’ slogan through the fabric!  Some didn’t bother with the standard white shirt and you would see grey, blue and brown t-shirts peeking-up under collars.  Every one of my jobs has required leather shoes that can be shined.  One female coworker somehow got away with wearing black, grey and pink ‘Sketcher’ sneakers with her uniform.  Which brings me to femininity.  You can still look like a woman in a uniform without overdoing it.  Most standards seem to call for hair held back or off the shoulders, short & clean fingernails, subtle nail polish, one ring per hand, simple watches and stud earrings no bigger than a nickel.  This one coworker regularly had 2-inch nails painted with wild designs, hair loose down her back, not wearing her necktie, dangling earrings and tight black flared pants rather than the uniform pants (which were shapeless but easy to move in).  Nobody took her seriously, and she would get upset and complain it was because she was female; no, it’s because she looked ridiculous!

She was also never in uniform when she arrived to work.  Her routine was as follows:  Come in 15-min late in shorts and flip flops, make her breakfast, put on her makeup, start putting on her uniform, eat breakfast while still wearing flip flops, check Facebook and sit in the office for the first 1.5 hrs of her shift.  She never made sure stores were open on time, trash was picked-up, floors were dry or that employees where safe while opening their stores.  It really, really drove me nuts that she didn’t care and that I was left doing all the work.  She also would not do exterior patrols in the summer because it was too hot and her makeup might run!  There was pretty much a hiring freeze though, so no luck getting rid of her or hiring a better employee.  I just came to work in my uniform, because traditionally the start of that shift was the busiest and you were running around for several hours as soon as you clocked-in.

In that job and my first I wore a simple ring, stud earrings (gold or silver to match the uniform name tag, badge, etc. sometimes pearl on special occasions) a little eye shadow, a sports watch, and a tie tack.  The tie tack was my way of wooping-up the uniform!  I had decorative ones, old-fashioned ones, and holiday pins for every occasion; I got a lot of compliments on them.  Quick trick, use big novelty earrings as tie tacks by using a frog or rubber backing; you have an extra in case you lose one.  As a joke I had tie tacks of a cup of coffee and a doughnut!

I also regularly cleaned my uniform and if they didn’t have permanent creases I’d do a little ironing.  No big deal, an extra 20 min or so and boom, looking sharp.  Wipe a sponge across your leather boots and bam, shiny.  Some of my coworkers would laugh at ‘how serious’ I took the uniform.  I figure that we should take every part of the job seriously, because if we start slacking on one aspect of it, we’ll start considering other aspects to be ‘unimportant’ and our performance will suffer.  Also, you really feel better about yourself and more prepared when you look good.  You look good, you feel confident and that shows!

 

 

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So You Can’t Find Your Car

Do you

A) Figure out that you actually parked outside another store

B) Assume it has been stolen

C) Decide the Security stole your keys out of your purse, moved your car, and snuck the keys back into your purse just to make you look stupid.

The answer is C.  Really.  I am NOT pulling your leg.  And this happened TWICE!

Woman (middle-aged) comes to Security in a panic; she can’t find her car.  I personally have had so much experience with this type of complaint that I have a step-by-step battleplan.  First; I ask what the first store was that the customer saw when they walked in – this narrows down the entrances and at this point they usually realize that they went out the wrong door.  If that doesn’t work, I get the make, model, color, and any distinguishing features like stuff in the windows or bumper stickers.  I ask if they remembered any particular part of the building.  Then all Security would walk or drive around looking for it, while we told the person to stay put.  (Sometimes, they would wander off, find their car on their own, and leave without letting us know!).  On a hunch, if they told me they were positive they parked outside of say, Kohls, I would double-check the Macy’s lot too, since they often mixed-up the two lots (opposite ends of the mall too!).  By this point, we usually found the car within a few minutes, directed the person to it, and they drove-off thankful.  That was 80% of the scenarios.  I even got hugs and offers of a tip from many of the elderly people who’s cars I found.  The challenge was always with the most popular cars and colors; light colored chevy impalas were VERY popular in that area, I think then came fords, hondas, and toyotas.  If they had electronic keys that triggered a car alarm, or turned on headlights, we’d have them walk the sidewalk hitting the button.

In the above case, the woman SWORE that she parked outside of Bon Ton.  She gives us the description down to the license plate.  The car isn’t outside of Bon Ton, but it is outside of Kohls.  We direct her there.  But she INSISTS that that is not her car!  She KNOWS she parked outside of Bon Ton.  We try to placate her that it’s a common mistake, the stores are close together, you’re in a hurry, you make a mistake, no harm done.  Now she’s at the car.  She’s still adamant that it’s not her car, even though it has all the items she described in the window.  We ask her to try the key; it works.  NO, it still is not her car she says!  She’s calling her husband and they’re going to call the police!  Her husband arrives and coaxes his wife to get in the car; it really is her car!  She gets in; the key starts the engine.  She is still convinced this is not her car and her husband keeps telling her it is, just get in and go home.  She then whips out this gem:  She knows that she parked outside of Bon Ton.  It’s a conspiracy!  She starts screaming at the Security Officers that someone stole her keys out of her purse and moved her car because they have something against her and wanted to make her look stupid.  All we could do was shake our heads as her husband tried to hide his face and get his wife to drive home!  All because she couldn’t admit that she forgot where she parked!

 

In the 2nd instance, I found a car running in the fire lane outside another store.  It was there for 5-min, so I wrote a ticket.  Then a woman in her late 20’s/early 30’s ran up to me SCREAMING ‘Why did I move her car!?’ I told her her car was sitting here, running, for over 5-min so I ticketed it.  She insisted that she had parked in a nearby row of cars, and that someone must have moved her car on her!  I asked if she had been shopping with anyone who might have moved the car as a joke; she said no.  While we were talking she took her keys out of the car.  I said that we could check video from the nearby store to see how her car got there.  Then the woman started yelling at me, where were her keys; why had I taken her keys away!  I pointed out that she was holding them; at this point, I thought she might be on drugs or something.

The store lets us check video and we see the woman walk from the store, with purchases, over to her car right where she claimed she parked.  She loads the car, gets in, pulls-out, drives to the fire lane in front of the store, parks, gets out and walks back into the store!  We looked at her; she said “Oh, well I guess I must have blacked out!”  So she did not remember going to her car the first time!  We asked her if she was sure she should be driving, but she shrugged us off.  She then flipped switches again and started yelling how her cell phone was missing and that the woman at the register must have stolen it!  The managers offered to go check the register, but the woman seemed to forget about her newest complaint and went back out to her car; driving off for good this time!  Phew!

 

The above story was plausible because we actually did have an instance of some people moving a car on their friends.  Young couple comes up and says their car is missing; and they know they parked right next to a very unique car in the lot that was still there.  They knew what door they went in and it seemed an honest case of a car being stolen, for once.  They asked that the police be called.  They were very upset because they were from out of state, staying with friends, and their friends had let them borrow the car for the day.  The police get there and they start giving a statement when their FRIENDS walk up to them, laughing!  Apparently, the friends they were staying with caught a ride to the mall with another friend, saw the car parked there, and decided to move it as a practical joke.  The couple was understandably upset that they had been made to feel so bad and that they had wasted the time of the Police.  The Police Officer rounded on the ‘friends’ and ripped them a new one about how he should cite them for filing a false police report, etc. etc.  He was not mad at the couple who honestly thought their car was stolen, but these so called ‘friends’ who thought it would be funny to waste public services.  All the people involved ended-up parting ways after the Officer let the friends off with a warning.  I doubt they stayed friends afterwards!

 

One day we got a call from the police asking if a particular vehicle was parked in our lots.  We told them yes, the car had actually been parked overnight outside one of the stores.  They said a couple of women would be coming to pick it up shortly.  Apparently, A woman had driven to the mall, shopped around, then caught a ride with a friend to go to the mall on the other end of town.  When she left that 2nd mall, she couldn’t find her car and reported it stolen.  Then her friend reminded her that she had been looking for her car at the wrong mall!

 

A story with a twist:  I see an elderly man looking very confused walking in one of the larger store lots.  I ask him if he was having trouble finding his car.  He said yes, a purple ford 4-door minivan.  I start looking for such a car, but can’t find it.  But, the way he’s acting worries me; he’s not making sense and keeps talking about how the store wouldn’t give him his medication.  At this point, I think he’s having an episode of some kind.  He wanders back into the store and I follow him.  It’s obvious that even if I find his car, he can’t drive himself home.  I try to find out if he lives at a home, is married, etc.  He shows me a check with his and a woman’s name on it, but there’s no phone number and he’s convinced that he’s not married.  He keeps trying to get his medication from the pharmacy, but there’s a problem with the insurance or something.  They seem concerned about how he’s acting too.  I asked them, if they could tell me what medication he was picking up, because that might give me a clue to what’s wrong.  They tell me ALZHEIMER’S MEDICATION!  I call an ambulance and have the man sit; he’s fairly calm but I don’t want him wandering off.  I ask the pharmacy if they can call the number on his file to get a hold of his wife.  The ambulance arrives and determines the man had a mini-stroke and are taking him to the hospital.

The pharmacy finally gets the wife on the phone just as the ambulance leaves.  She is LIVID.  She is screaming about how she sent her husband to pick up his medicine and she is NOT paying for an ambulance ride and how is she supposed to get his car home now!  It turned out that she had wanted us to cancel the ambulance, have her husband wait for her, then she would have him drive HIS car and follow her home while she drove HER car!  I coldly explained to her that her husband had had a STROKE, he was being taken to hospital X, and it was perfectly fine for her to leave his car there for a few days if she told us what he drove (it was actually a tan 2-door chevy).  She was still bitching about how difficult we had made this for her and how we shouldn’t have gotten into her business as we were hanging-up.

I hope the man was all right, and that the wife was just stressed over his mental issues.

 

Another story with a twist:  We found a car parked cockeyed in the fire lane outside one of the busiest stores and where a bus stop was.  We write it a ticket.  About a half hour later it’s still there, so we start to page the owner.  After an hour, still there.  Then we notice the keys are in the ignition; that’s odd.  We wonder if it’s been dumped as an insurance scam to claim a stolen car.  We call the Police.  They call the registered Owner of the car.  This is where it gets odd.  The Owner lives in a town over an hour away.  Apparently, he’s gotten a picture message from his son showing his car in front of our mall (it was a close-up, there’s no way you could tell what shopping center the car was in front of).  There was a text saying good luck finding his car, and when he got it back it would probably have a hundred tickets on it, and good luck paying those off!  Apparently the Son had been mad at his Dad, driven the car all this way to dump it, in hopes that it would be stolen, ticketed or towed and that that would teach his Dad a lesson!  The Owner offered to get the car the next day, as he had to arrange for a ride.  We felt bad for the guy, so of course we took the ticket back, drove the car into a parking spot, and held the keys until he arrived the next day.  He apologized and said he was having a lot of problems with his Son; he had been going to sell the car to him when he got a new one, but then felt the Son did not deserve a car and rescinded the offer and was selling the car to someone else; that’s why the Son was mad!

 

This last story reminds me of a car crash that happened just feet off the mall property and involved a drunk kid in his Dad’s car; stay-tuned for it!

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Great Moments In Bad Management:

The first; the Front Desk Manager at the hotel where my Security Company had a contract.

Housekeeping forgot to bring a cot to a room on the 2nd floor before they left for the night.  2nd floor was in an old part of the hotel with no elevator.  The Manager asked me to bring a cot to the room.  HOWEVER, all the cots are on the 1st floor.  Did she

A) Help me bring a cot to the room

B) Get someone from Maintenance to help me

C) Tell me to get it done

If you guessed C you’re right.  And these were twin sized metal framed fold-up beds with rollers; probably 150lbs.  I started pulling the thing up the stairs when I felt a ‘pop’ in my back, dropping the bed.  The guest actually came down from his room looking for the bed and had to help me carry it up the stairs.  10-min later I couldn’t stand up.  I called my Supervisor who got someone to cover my shift.  I went home to ice my back and ended-up going to the chiropractor 3-days a week until I was better; I had seriously strained my back and it was even worse because I have Scoliosis (I’m fairly stoic and deal with the everyday irritation, but some days it’s depressing how sore I am and it makes the rest of my body ache).  I was instructed by my Supervisors to not bring anything to rooms if it was heavy and couldn’t be put on a cart; the front desk would have to deal with it.  Security was supposed to help with housekeeping duties after hours, but by this point the front desk and the housekeeping staff were taking advantage of it; I was bringing microwaves, mini fridges and one time an ENTIRE floor housing a soccer team needed a cot in every room!  12 cots!

 

The second; my Supervisor at my 2nd Security Job, in-house security at a mall.

Supervisor forgets to schedule someone for the overnight shift.  Does he

A) Cover the shift himself since it’s his mistake

B) Call someone who needed the hours

C) Call a reliable employee who never says no

Well, surprise; it was C.  Except he acted like I hadn’t shown up to work.  HE forgot to put me on the schedule, but I thought I had the day off because I had REQUESTED it because my parents were visiting.  In this case, I had been up all day and was in no shape to work a night.  Secondly, I’d had a few drinks and rules dictate you have your last drink no more than 8-hours before the start of your shift.  In this case it had been about 45 min.  I told him I was sorry, but I couldn’t cover it.  He kept insisting, even after I said I’d been drinking.  He asked “well, did you really drink THAT much?”  Ummm, still no.  I’m a lightweight; 2 drinks and I’m out.

He ended up forcing the 2nd shift guy to work a double, rather than covering himself.  He did that quite often.

 

The second; same Supervisor.

I’m having sever chest pains, getting short of breath, and can’t stand upright half-way through my shift.  Does he

A) Call an Ambulance

B) Tell me to suck it up and finish my shift

C) Tell me I can leave to drive myself to the hospital

Well, it was a mix of B and C.  First he asked if I could tough it out.  No; I was starting to panic since I couldn’t catch my breath.  So he told me I could leave to go to the ER and gave me directions to the closest hospital.  Yes, he GAVE ME DIRECTIONS!  I’d only lived in the area 3-months, didn’t have a GPS or Smartphone and didn’t know my way around.  I managed to follow the directions partway and then got lost.  Then I saw and ambulance for the hospital, and decided to follow it because I figured it had to go back to the hospital at some point.  I follow it to the hospital and into the ER.  An hour later I couldn’t stand and was given a wheelchair.  I was starting to get pretty bad and other people waiting actually insisted that the staff look at me.  Long story short, blood clot in the lung, in the hospital for 9-days, out of work for a month.  All I heard from my Supervisor was demands to come back a week after I left the hospital and how I wouldn’t have a paycheck because I’d used all my vacation days.  Yep; he was really torn up about me!  Luckily, HIS boss, the mall management,  wished me well and I still had my job when I got back.

I think I’ve been lucky with bosses in the scheme of things.

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Religious Conversion & Conversation At Work

When you represent your company and client, sometimes you have to endure insults, accusations and some downright nasty stuff in the name of professionalism.  Several times in my career someone has attempted to attack my beliefs or convert me while on the job.  I don’t wear my beliefs on my sleeve, but I cannot bring myself to lie when asked straight out in the course of conversation “What religion are you?” or “What do you believe in?”  I shouldn’t be afraid of sharing what I believe with the world if invited to, but I don’t go pushing them on others.  Ironically, this is what the person asking ends up doing to me!

I am Pagan.  I don’t consider myself a Witch, but I consider myself Wiccan.  I always wear my Pentacle ring (a 5-pointed star set in a circle representing nature; earth, air, fire, water, spirit), as it’s special to me.  Other than having a few confused people ask if I was Jewish (as in a ‘Star of David’) Most people never noticed it.  When I worked with my first company and was posted at a hotel with a conference center, we once had a large Baptist Revival group book the center for a weekend.  There were several hundred attendees from Southern States.  They were a friendly group, but rather pushy and seemed to show a disregard for the comfort and beliefs of others.  For example, they wanted the hotel to close the pool to the other guests so they could perform baptisms (I don’t know if this is a usual thing) in it.  The hotel didn’t have any sort of ‘pool rental system’ in place and told them sorry, they could not deny other guests the use of the pool, and due to staffing they could not leave the pool open late or open it early.  I think they could have easily set-up a temporary pool in the conference center (an inflatable or aboveground like those used at outdoor expos where they have indoor trout fishing ponds), and they certainly would have been allowed to do that.  HOWEVER, they took it upon themselves to kick all the other guests out of the pool area, bless the pool and do it anyway.  The hotel got dozens of complaints from angry guests about the loss of the pool and had to give out some hefty refunds to make up for it.  But the hotel also didn’t do anything to stop it, for fear of being seen as ‘insensitive.’

One night I was posted in the lobby when several Preachers (I’m not sure what the proper title is) came in.  They engaged me in conversation about my job, the neighborhood, etc.  They then asked ‘had I read the good book.’  Oh dear.  I simply told them that I read the book that was important to me.  I kept trying to dance around the questions as they became more specific and tried to go find something to do.  No luck, another couple Preachers entered the conversation (I had now 5-around me) and continued to push me into telling them what I believed in.  I was not about to cause them to have an outburst in a lobby full of guests, so I pretended my radio was going off and dashed into the office.  I figured they would react in one of  3-ways; they would accept my beliefs and move on, they would become outraged and abusive, or they would attempt to convert me.  You’re probably thinking I was overly negative and I should have thought the best of them.  Off the clock, yes, I would have been honest.  On the clock, it was not my place to bring my personal life into the workplace.  Sometimes it’s hard to be polite and professional; you’re darned if you do, darned if you don’t, and people will complain either way.

At my second job when working security for a mall, we were allowed to ticket vehicles for non-moving violations in our parking lot on behalf of the township police.  That meant we wrote handicap and parking tickets that were upheld the same as a ticket written by a police officer.  I worked weekdays and weekend evenings and so wrote an average of 6-tickets a day.  Usually, I was finished and gone before the driver returned.  Sometimes, I was not so lucky!

One day I ticketed a car in a handicap space.  I would check all areas of a vehicle for a handicap place card; I’d check the mirror, dash, seat, visor and sides of the doors – if I couldn’t even see a flash of one, I wrote the ticket (this is overly generous; laws say it must be displayed from the rear view mirror).  I was just walking away from the car when a middle-aged lady approached me and asked why I wrote her a ticket.  I explained that she was in a posted handicap space, but if she had simply forgotten to put her card up she could just show it to me and I could void the ticket no problem.  She said that she did not have a handicap place card, but that did not matter because she did not feel well today and was entitled to use it and to take the ticket back, as that was the ‘right’ thing to do (NO, the right thing to do is to own up to your mistake like an adult and accept the ticket!).  I told her that’s not how the spaces worked and I could not take the ticket back.  She told me that I was being an evil person for giving a ‘good Christian woman a ticket’ and how could I live with myself?  I told her religion had nothing to do with it; I don’t know the religion of who I’m ticketing.

She reached into her car and grabbed a stack of pamphlets.  Waving the ticket in my face she told me that she does the work of ‘God’ and that she believed I gave her the ticket because we were meant to meet so she could ‘save me.’ I told her I was saved already, thank you.  She didn’t believe me (of course) and pushed the ticket into my hands.  I told her she had to take the ticket and went to put it back on her car.  She blocked me and said she would take the ticket if I would take the pamphlets and agree to go to her church next sermon.  I agreed and took the pamphlets and she (finally) took the ticket.  Phew!  No, I did not go to the church and luckily never saw her again.

The mall, like most, had a ‘no solicitation’ policy.  That means you cannot just go into a mall and put up posters for your concert, flyers for your website, or pamphlets for your church.  Yes, church pamphlets count a solicitation.  Anything you want to distribute at a mall has to be approved by the Management.  Management did not approve religious material of any kind because, to be fair, if they allowed one group to put up their flyers, they would have to allow every group, and you can imagine the epic sh*tstorm that would cause!  I explained that very thing to a man who screamed at me for collecting and throwing away pamphlets left by a local church; he said it wasn’t right to ignore the ‘true word.’ I explained to him that if we allowed ‘The United Christian Church’ to leave its pamphlets (not a real name) then to be fair we would have to let the “Central Wiccan Group’ and the ‘Satanist Church of the East’ leave their literature also.  He went positively volcanic and said that we’d ‘better not!’ because only HIS church had the true word.  I told him point blank that EVERY groups’ word was the TRUE word in their minds and hearts.  We finally had to escort him out of the mall.  There are several local groups that leave, weekly, several POUNDS of pamphlets that we have to collect and throw away.  They leave them on benches, in windows, attached to store displays and on the mirrors in the bathrooms.  They had been contacted time after time to cease and desist, but they never stopped as long as I worked there.  Not exactly a good impression to make; that you can ignore the rules if you are a certain religion (for anyone!)

My coworkers, for the most part, haven’t cared and some have even been interested.  One though, was completely ridiculous in his interpretation of what I tried to explain to him.  At first, he seemed genuinely curious about my beliefs and I honestly answered every question he asked…Until he began twisting and actually mocking every answer I gave him.  It seemed some sort of game to him, to make fun of whatever I said.  So I stopped talking to him except for anything work related, but he’d still aim mocking comments at me.

He became especially stupid around the Christmas (I was raised Catholic so yes, I still like Christmas😀 but tell people ‘happy Yule or happy holidays) whenever he heard someone tell me ‘Merry Christmas.’  Now, I look at the thought behind the words; they are wishing me happiness and peace, that’s awesome.  It doesn’t matter to me how they say it, it means the same.  BUT my Coworker would call to me ‘Don’t you think that’s insensitive!?  Aren’t you insulted!?’ and sometimes would even tell the people I was talking to ‘You can’t say Merry Christmas to her; she doesn’t believe in it!’  Thank for making things awkward, coworker!  He made the same comments whenever someone told me ‘Bless you’ when I sneezed.  I was some sort of running joke to him.  It didn’t bother me too much, it was just embarrassing.

I haven’t had problems with anyone for years.  But now, at my 3rd security job with a private company, I work with (and trained) another gem of a coworker.  He’s an older gentleman, so I understand the stricter and more conservative beliefs of that generation.  However, I have never commented on what he may or may not believe in, and don’t appreciate him bringing some pretty strongly-worded views into the workplace!  I came in to find a book on the desk; it had a title something like “Protecting Children from Paganism” and I flipped through a few pages, finding chapters detailing such misguided beliefs that Paganism is Satanism and that the holidays center around summoning ‘demons.’ I  was pretty insulted, the Officer I was relieving knew I was next on the schedule, but I’d never mentioned my religion to him and we didn’t wear jewelry at this site.  I put the book away and started my shift.  He came out and asked if I’d seen a book.  I gave it to him and he started commenting on it, that he had bought it because our boss had wanted to read it.  I said something neutral, and kept trying to ignore him.

Buuuttt….he kept going about how it’s ‘sick’ that ‘these people are sick’ and ‘devil worshipers’ and they’re corrupting the country, etc, etc.  I said whatever other people believe in is fine with me if it makes them happy.  He went on that it’s still ‘wrong,’ blah blah blah blah…Finally I just told him “You know that I am Wiccan, right?  That that book is very inaccurate and Paganism and Satanism are two different religions.”  He kind of fish-faced for a few seconds before blustering that ‘all those religions are the same; they’re still wrong and anyone who believes them is going to Hell.’ (Hard to do, since we don’t believe in Hell!) I simply said if that’s what he believed in and kept working.  He was grumbling about it until he left.  I went to the boss upset afterwards and asked if he’d actually read that book.  I like my boss; he didn’t seem like that type of closed-minded person – he’s admitted he’s a nerd who likes WOW and Portal.  He said he didn’t know why my coworker had thought he would like that book and he hadn’t actually read it.  I told him I was pretty upset with finding that book and told him what coworker had said to me.  He was VERY concerned and asked if Coworker had ever brought this up at work before.  I told him honestly no, but now it would be hard for me working with someone who outright said my beliefs are wrong and I’m going to hell.  He told me to let him know if Coworker EVER starts confronting me about religion again.

I appreciated that.  I certainly did nothing to provoke the conversation and coworker should have known better, especially with the client we work with, than to bring up such a volatile topic with such a potential for backlash, both from the boss, our company and anyone else who might have heard.  I still have to work with the guy, but luckily he hasn’t brought it up again; though I am DREADING what he’s going to start spouting around Halloween!

I don’t mind overall; whatever people want to believe in is fine with me, but don’t knowingly insult what I believe in and tell me I don’t believe in the ‘right’ thing.  If someone is happy worshiping the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that’s great!  I’d love to hear about your interests, if you will accept mine.

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“Get a Real Job!”

Throughout my security work in public settings, this seems to be the end-all retort from Customers when they’ve been called on their bad behavior.  At first I was amused.  Then it got old.  Then I got insulted.  Finally, I said it like it was; ‘Sir/Ma’am, I earn a paycheck and filled-out a W2, I think this qualifies as a real job.’  Most of them strut and puff and peck but ultimately threw their noses in the air and stormed-off.  I’ve also heard it said that we were just ‘high school drop-outs that couldn’t make it in the military and aren’t good enough to become police officers.’ Also untrue.  Obviously, a lot of my younger coworkers and those I trained used security as a stepping-stone into such careers after they finished high school.  Heck, the company I work for now would not even accept a high school drop out!  Some desire or require a college degree.

I myself am not using the stepping-stone approach; I was not cut-out for the military and I don’t think I would make a good police officer.  But at one or two locations, learning everything about the place and the people that work/shop there, the ins and outs and little details, THAT I’m good at; I consider myself a scout/intel & recon-type person.  I also enjoy paperwork (Gasp!) and am organized, which looks good to your superiors.  I am content where I am for now.  I know I don’t want to do this as a career, and I have many other desires, dreams, and hobbies turning into obsessions, but right now I’m happy.  In any event, I clock in, I work, I go home, I get paid…THAT’S a real job!

It makes me wonder; the people who complained were often shopping in the middle of a weekday; what does that say about them?

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Non-Service Animals In Stores

It seems many people aren’t aware that the definition of ‘service animal’ has changed, but still the training for security and store employees is outdated.  Most handbooks define service animal as a ‘dog’ and considers them the ONLY recognized service animal.  It is known though, that service animals now encompass not only every size of dog but even monkeys, rats and miniature horses.  The mindset is also outdated in the thought that only the blind use service dogs, leading to those with less visible disabilities being accused of bringing a pet into a store.

I am amazed that so many never consider the diseases we can’t see; diabetes, MS, epilepsy, PTSD, etc.  A person can look completely healthy, yet a dog is all that stands between them and serious injury, death or further mental anguish.  There’s no defined ‘training’ to classify a dog as a service animal; you can train your own or receive one from one of several organizations.  As long as the animal provides a ‘trained service’ it is a service animal (things such as alerting the owner to blood sugar spikes or drops, anticipating a seizure, steadying them as they lose their balance, or grabbing their hand as they fall into a flash-back.

A store is only allowed to ask ‘is that a service animal’ and ‘what is it trained to do.’  They cannot ask to see paperwork, tell the person the dog needs a special collar or vest, or ask what problem that person has.  Depending on what plagues the person, the type and size of dog can vary; from a common large breed for the vision impaired like German Shepherd or Black Lab to a Schnauzer or Toy Poodle for those with seizures.  At my last 2-malls security was often approached by someone complaining of a person having a dog.  (We usually noticed dogs right away and once observing that it was a service animal, radioed the rest of the officers so they would be aware that a service dog was in the mall) We would tell them it was all right as it was a service animal  9-times out of 10-we got the response “That person isn’t blind and only Shepherds/Goldies/Yellow Labs are Seeing Eye Dogs anyway!”  We had to explain that a person doesn’t have to be blind to have a dog and that many breeds are used.  I’ve seen a Seeing Eye Poodle and a Seizure Boxer, among others, including all 3-types of labs and mutts.

Also, there has been the recent trend of ’emotional support animals.’ Which everyone who doesn’t want to leave their dog at home seem to use.  There is a fine line between such an animal and a service dog.  Support animals are generally not considered Service animals unless the perform one of the aforementioned tasks, though I personally believed that they should be covered under the category as well.  However, as I mentioned, it’s so easy for anyone to call their pocket dog a ‘support animal’ that I suppose for the good of the majority they had to draw the line somewhere.  We had a woman that came to one of my malls with her cat.  She explained that the cat was trained to visit the elderly in the nursing home and she had the paperwork to prove it.  We applauded her for her community service, but since the cat was not trained to help her specifically deal with an issue while she was out in public it had to leave.  But when it comes to PTSD support dogs and those trained to help autistic children, I simply accept at face value that it’s a legitimate service animal (if it’s the difference between them getting to enjoy life or being stuck in their homes, let them have the dog!) and the rest of the customers can cope.  But, if I catch Mrs. Doglove with Lil’ Muffkins tucked in her purse because she can’t ‘bear to be away from him for even an hour!’ then they’re getting the boot!

On a related note, when you’re asked to take your pet out of the mall/store and you complain that it’s too hot/cold for him/her in the car…Don’t you think the dog would have been happier staying at home?  Despite your protests, bringing the dog with you was not for his or her comfort, but for your own selfish needs.

Along those lines, the people who buy official-looking ‘certificates’ and vests and brag that now they can take Mr. Fluffykins the ankle-biting hellhound anywhere they want, then there’s a special place in ‘You Know Where’ for them, right next to people who bring screaming children to the movie theater and able-bodied people who use handicap parking.  There is also a special place for the parents who allow their children to harass a service dog while it is working, possibly endangering the life of the person it’s assisting.  And not only parents but anyone who walks-up to one of these dogs and begins touching/feeding it.  Bad Human.  Bad!

Actually, my annoyance of people who harass a working dog extends to those who harass pet dogs when out in acceptable public places as well.  You complain to me that ‘Well, little Timmy is afraid of big brown dogs” to explain why little Timmy ran up to my dog from out of nowhere and kicked her in the face as she was sniffing a patch of grass.  Or parents who allow their children to jump on my dog after I’ve just told them “she’s not good with children.” (/End tangent)

On the flip side, the same standards of conduct apply to a service dog in a place open to the public as it does to the Owner/Handler.  If the dog becomes aggressive, destructive, distracting it will have to leave the same as if it were a human Customer.  The same applies to a service animal in a non-animal friendly hotel; the hotel cannot add a surcharge for anyone with a legitimate service animal, but if the animal causes damage the person is liable the same as if they themselves had caused the damage.

There are so many physical and mental issues and so many different dogs being trained to deal with them that we should all be aware.  Smaller dogs that can detect changes in body chemistry, breathing and heart rhythm and can sit in the lap of a wheelchair bound person may be a better fit for their lifestyle.  Medium breeds may be excellent support animals.  Large breeds may be great helpers in the daily routine of people with muscular issues.  We can’t just judge (well, a Chihuahua in a designer handbag a la ‘Legally Blond’ is probably an obvious case of ‘dog accessorizing’).  It doesn’t hurt to ask, as long is it’s polite and within the aforementioned boundaries.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Crime That Wasn’t

(Inspired by ‘Insecurity’ of ‘Retail Hell Underground’)

This poster recently shared their story of the worst crime they encountered while at work.

It reminded me of the time we rallied over a crime that supposedly had taken place on-property, only to find out the cake was a lie.

It was a weekday, mid-day, at the mall where I was security (my 2nd security job).  Mall Management calls all security to the parking lot of our largest retailer.  Management is out there themselves with every mall employee they can gather.  Police are driving through the lots also.  Note that Security had received NO calls of suspicious activities, complaints, etc.  Management says that police told them a woman claimed to have been attacked while in her car as she pulled-up to the stop sign in front of said large retailer.  She said she was pulled from her car, beaten and robbed before the bald white male ran off towards road X.  Weirdly, she doesn’t appear disheveled or injured.

Some of us walk the edge of the property.  Maintenance drives around the back of the mall.  Some of us go into the retailer to look for video (their cameras cover the lot and would have a good shot of that area).  Of course, all this official presence is making the shoppers and stores nervous, and they keep asking what is happening.  The police continue interviewing the woman.  Strangely, NOBODY at this busy store saw a thing regarding a crime lasting over a minute that would have happened right in front of an entrance.  Police then tell us that we’re not looking for a bald white male, but a black male with matted hair who ran towards road Y.  Wait, what? Checks of the store cameras only show the woman getting into her car from another car in the lot, driving up to the stop sign, making the stop, and driving off.  Something isn’t added-up.

Then Management calls off the investigation.  The woman had confessed to police that she made up the whole story.  Why?  Well, the car she got out of (on the video) before getting into her own was her boyfriend’s.  They had met for a ‘romantic tryst.’ But she’d accidentally left her jewelry and purse in his car.  She didn’t know how to explain them missing to her HUSBAND so she made-up the story about being robbed.  Police arrested her for filing a false report, we go on our ways to write our own reports, Management is pissed for the rest of the day, and rumors swirl for a week afterwards over what we were doing in the parking lot; everything from person with a gun to bomb threat.

Please people, commit adultery somewhere NOT in public!  Or at least not where I’m working…

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‘You Expect Me To Take Responsibility For MY Kids!?!’ The Pre-Security Story

A post on ‘Retail Hell Underground’ about a child bothering the cashier for 20+ minutes while the Mother shopped and wasn’t watching her reminded me of this:

I was 18-20, in college, working at a movie theater part time.  A couple with a 6ish Year Old girl came in and bought tickets to a VERY PG-13 horror movie.  It was a very quiet weekday, so the lobby was empty.  Not 10-minutes into the actual movie the little girl came out of the theater and wandered around.  I was the only person at the stand at that time and asked if she was looking for the bathroom.  She said “The movie is too scary and Mommy said to wait outside.”  Yes, instead of taking the child to an age appropriate movie, finding a sitter, or getting a refund and leaving they just decided to let their child wander around a movie theater.

Now, it was in a quiet town, during the day, but that doesn’t mean a thing.  I brought the little girl back to the theater, but she was out again a minute later.  She sat on a bench for a while and said she was bored.  I got her some paper and found some crayons and markers to play with.  I drew some pictures with her.  All the movies were playing, so there was only the occasional refill to do.  After a movie let-out I made she she didn’t wander out the door.  Then my boss came down from the office.  He was a great guy but in this instance we had a misunderstanding.  He started lecturing me how I had to focus on my job and I could not ‘hang with my little sister’ while at work, and someone was going to have to pick her up. (!)  I told him EXACTLY what was going on; that the parents refused to leave the theater or keep their child in with them, and it was too scary a movie for her anyway.  He sort of hemmed and hawed but didn’t say anything else.  The parents’ movie ended a little while later and they just walked out of the theater, walked up to their child, and walked out of the building with their noses in the air.  Not a care in the world and not a ‘thanks for taking care of our child.’

The boss was never clear on what I should have done, as that had never happened before or since.  The little girl did say ‘Thanks for playing with me.”  I felt sad for her, wondering if she felt she was an inconvenience in the lives of the people who had chosen to give birth to her.

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‘You Expect Me To Take Responsibility For MY Kids!?!’

(As told to me by an associate who works security in another local mall)

This mall has a movie theater.  Theater caught a 13YO girl trying to sneak-in the one-way doors to a theater when another customer exited.  Theater calls security.  Security asks where the girls’ parents are.  Girl says her mom dropped her off.  Girl is throwing a fit so Security wants her off-property.  Girl refuses to call her mom to pick her up.  Security escorts her off-property, at which point they see her on her cell phone.  A little while later the girl is driven back to the mall by a woman, who parks, gets out, and confronts the security officers still outside the theater.

The woman tells security that THAT is her daughter and she is giving her PERMISSION to come back into the mall.  Security tells her no, her daughter is not welcome as she tried to sneak into the movies.  Woman says her daughter was only trying to meet her cousin in another theater and they do that all the time!  Security told her again that daughter is not welcome and if the woman brings her back they will charge daughter with trespassing.  Woman is outraged and calls dad.  Security at this point also asks woman to leave; she refuses.  Security calls the police to have the woman and daughter removed

Dad shows up just as the police do and starts ripping into security, saying “What were you thinking kicking a poor 13YO off property without ANY supervision!  Do you have any idea what could have happened to her!?”  Security asks him if he was so concerned for his daughter than who did he have supervising her while she was at the mall?  He puffs and blusters and argues that security is implying that their mall is not safe for children!  Security points out that his daughter was causing trouble, and if she had been PROPERLY supervised, none of this would have happened.

Dad gets in security’s faces.  Police Officer intervenes.  Officer asks the Woman point-blank ‘did you let your daughter come back on property after they’d trespassed her?’ The woman says yes.  Police issue both daughter and woman citations for trespassing.  Dad becomes enraged.  Police then issue him a citation for disorderly conduct, and, after security says he is not allowed back on property, for trespassing also.  Police force all three family members to drive away.

Stay tuned for more stories of people not being responsible for their children…

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