Cheektowaga Police, Walden Galleria eye pilot project to address fights, brawls at the mall

CHEEKTOWAGA, NY (WIVB) – The Walden Galleria has had its issues over the years with fights among youth and a lot of steps have been taken to boost security.

Many of the fights have happened during the busy holiday shopping season. Earlier this year, the mall expanded its parental escort policy to seven days a week, meaning anyone under the age of 18 must be with a parent or guardian 21 years old or older.

And, there are talks of launching a pilot project to try to prevent violence from breaking out.

Cheektowaga Police, the Galleria and anti-violence groups are eyeing the implementation of a Community Engagement Services” pilot program, which would add Erie County Probation officers to the mall.

“Because individuals who may be on probation, may be part of the problem and so having a probation officer come through there from time to time would serve as a deterrent from anybody that may be planning on doing something nefarious within the mall,” said Pastor James Giles of Buffalo Peacemakers.

Officials say a similar pilot project has been used in Destiny Mall USA, a major mall in Syracuse, and that the program worked well there.

In recent months, a church called Impacting Love Global Ministries opened its doors at the Galleria — members of the congregation also worked with youth and try to prevent problems from happening.

“We want to be consistent because I believe if these young people see consistency they’ll take us serious and know that we’re serious about them,” said Apostle Dr. Garney Davis, Jr. of Impacting Love Global Ministries.

Giles said while there haven’t been any major issues among teens in the mall so far this year, the hope is that that will continue with the summer months on the way.

“Our challenge as a society and a community is how do we develop more recreational and more positive pursuits for all young people to do,” Giles said.

So far, no decisions have been made on getting probation officers in the Galleria. Erie County lawmakers would need to approve the proposal and the county would need to sign an agreement with the mall.

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.