good question

Follow-Up on the Mom Arrested for Leaving Child at Lego Store While She Shopped: When IS this Illegal?

A reader writes:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’m sending a link to a WHEC (Rochester NY local station) news story with updates on the mom who was charged after leaving her kid at the Eastview Mall LEGO Store. The officer in the video said some interesting things, both discouraging (under 16 and left alone for 2 hours is too long) and encouraging (it depends on the child). I’d be interested in reading your take on it.

.

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http://www.whec.com/good-question/unattended-child-when-can-parents-be-charged/4538715/?cat=10853

My take: How amazing and cool that this station did a follow up on something people truly wonder about: What age CAN you legally leave your child alone?

Because as it turns out, the mom left her child for over two hours — a fact originally unreported by the sheriff’s office.

I agree with the person who sent the link that that the officer asserting that, “When you’re under the age of 16, you shouldn’t be left alone in a store for two hours” ” is nutty — 16-year-olds can drive! Even framing the issue as someone “being left alone” seems to imply that parental accompaniment is a given until the parent peels off.

But I also agree that leaving a child who doesn’t know where his mom is, or how to reach her, is not fair to the kid. I don’t think it “endangers” the child, and I certainly  don’t think it should be treated as a crime. It’s just a sad situation, and if anything, it warrants a little chat, not an investigation. – L

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37 Responses to Follow-Up on the Mom Arrested for Leaving Child at Lego Store While She Shopped: When IS this Illegal?

  1. Theresa Hall July 26, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    First of all I don’t remember there being a time limit on how long you shop.
    Second wasn’t there a meeting plan where mom meet up with the kid.

  2. MikeInVirginia July 26, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    I my state, 15 year olds can get a job almost anywhere. The hours are limited, but it’s definitely longer than two hours. Children as young as 12 can work agriculture jobs and even operate some equipment (not something I am happy about, but my state caters to agriculture in many ways like that).

    Anyway, the point is that whenever I hear someone say something about what children under 16 shouldn’t be able to do on their own, it just makes them sound stupid to me.

  3. Powers July 26, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    No, Theresa, the only “meeting plan” was “wait here until I come get you.”

    God, that LEGO store isn’t even that big. There really isn’t that much for a kid to do there except gawk at sets he can’t afford and maybe put together a few minifigs.

  4. Richard Stanford July 26, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    That’s interesting nuance. Something can be a bad idea – something can even violate store or mall policy – without it automatically being illegal. Even if the mall uses off-duty police officers as security guards, that still shouldn’t make policy violations upgrade to crimes.

  5. Jessica July 26, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    This is interesting. And I really agree that “cause for a chat” is what it is. And it’s too bad that law enforcement, security guards, and even local busybodies often skip this step. I think it would have been appropriate to scold the mom thoroughly– she really was using the store as a babysitting service, which isn’t fair to her kid or to the store employees. But it definitely shouldn’t be a matter for the police.

  6. Jessica July 26, 2017 at 10:04 am #

    One more thing– I LOVE that the officer acknowledged that every child is different. My laid-back son would happily chill in a store with no idea where I was. His best friend has a more anxious temperament, and leaving him alone for several hours really might border on abuse, just because of how frightened he would be.

  7. Dienne July 26, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    “(under 16 and left alone for 2 hours is too long)”

    Well, charge me now, then, because for the past three days my 15 year old has been taking the El downtown on her own, walking to Michigan Avenue on her own, attending art camp on her own and getting herself home on the El on her own. Usually her father is home by the time she gets home, but not always, so, if not, that’s more hours there.

  8. Emily July 26, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    Maybe that was the whole point of the outing–the boy wanted to shop at the mall independently, and for whatever reason, that couldn’t happen. Maybe it was too far from home, maybe the mother didn’t feel comfortable leaving her son completely alone in the mall, or maybe she just also had some shopping she had to do, so she took him to the mall, with instructions to meet at a specific location at a certain time–for example, “meet me at the food court at 1 p.m. for lunch.” So, in that context, if the boy chose to spend more than two hours in the Lego store, that was his decision, because he was shopping independently. It also would have been reasonable for him not to know where his mother was, because she didn’t give him a minute-by-minute itinerary of her shopping plans, nor did she expect one from him. I don’t think that’s negligent–I mean, people of all ages did it for generations before cell phones existed, and just because cell phones exist now, doesn’t mean that everyone has one, or that everyone who has one, uses them 24/7. Cell phones get lost, broken, forgotten at home, or run out of battery power. Alternatively, some people simply choose not to use them sometimes, because they don’t want to be “plugged in” all the time. This has actually been discussed/debated quite a lot on this forum–now that cell phones have become widespread, should we expect that everyone should be reachable 24/7? I don’t think so.

  9. Heartfruit July 26, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    I have some sympathy for the Lego store here. There is a big difference between a child or young adult who has birthday money to spend coming into a Lego store to shop independently and a kid who is dumped there for two hours. I’m sure if they didn’t have some rules they would effectively be turned into a daycare by some parents.

    I agree with the officer in the piece that it depends on the kid and how comfortable they are with the situation. When leaving my daughter alone I always check with her that she is OK with the situation.

  10. davery July 26, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Not to pull the “when I was a kid” logic, but when I was a kid THE MALL WAS WHERE YOU WENT BY YOURSELF TO GET AWAY FROM YOUR PARENTS. We even “gasp” rode the bus there ourselves or drove with friends (no adults).

    We didn’t have smartphones in the 80s either. Somehow, not only was this normal but we all survived.

  11. James Pollock July 26, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    ” I also agree that leaving a child who doesn’t know where his mom is, or how to reach her, is not fair to the kid. I don’t think it “endangers” the child, and I certainly don’t think it should be treated as a crime. It’s just a sad situation, and if anything, it warrants a little chat, not an investigation”

    Well, I think that “a little chat” and “an investigation” are pretty much the same thing.
    The police say how long a kid can be let alone depends on the circumstances (left alone where, when, and how) and the kid (are they capable of handling themselves?) A “little chat” may reveal information that tends to incriminate.

    Consider two possible scenarios. (I will supply some facts that aren’t in the original story (the difference between when I do it and when some other people are doing it is that A) I’m saying I’m doing it, and B) I’m not assuming they’re true, I’m asking what if these are true.)

    1. Kid has money he wants to spend, but parents are too busy to take him to store. So parent says. “Take your money to the store, pick out what you want to buy, and then come find me. (the kid is capable of doing this). The kid goes into the Lego store, browses for a while, selects the items he wants to buy, takes them to the register, pays for them, and leaves the store with his new items. He finds his parent by calling, by meeting in a specific spot, or by waiting at the car, It doesn’t matter how, it just matters that the kid knows how to do it

    2. Kid is annoying to shop with. “When are we leaving, I want to go now! Can we go?” starts in within 5 minutes. Harried parent finally has enough. Spotting the first kid-friendly store, the parent says “stay here until I come get you. Do NOT leave this store.” Parent then leaves to conduct shopping at leisure, minus one annoyance. Parent finds this more relaxing than expected and loses track of time. Meanwhile, the child is no longer annoying to the parent, but is still annoying. Store employees tolerate it, at first, but several other customers complain about the child’s behavior. Finally, the store’s manager has had enough, and asks the kid to buy something and leave, or just leave, but the kid is under orders NOT to leave and has no capability to self-manage, and is panic-stricken at even the possibility of going out into the mall 25 feet, and sitting down on a bench outside the store. The store manager contacts the mall security office, and the mall security officers begin to try to locate this kid’s parent(s), unsuccessfully, and eventually they guess that the parent might not even be in the mall, so they call in the local police. The local police arrive, are informed of the situation, and eventually are successful in locating the parent in the mall. The police start to have that little chat about abandoning one’s child in a store, but the parent becomes confrontational and loudly announces that they leave this kid, and younger siblings alone in stores “all the time”, a claim which is repeated several times in several contexts, with sufficient detail that suggests that there is a pattern of behavior sufficient to support a charge of neglect.

    I suggest to you that a case similar to #1 happens all the time, without the store employees, mall security, or police agencies batting an eye. Treating a retail store like a retail store does not bother anybody. On the other hand, a case similar to #2 involves treating a retail store like a babysitting service… it’s like the lady at the beach leaving her child unsupervised because other parents are nearby and will step up, if needed.

    It sounds to me like the policy of this police force matches my own… that different children have different capabilities, and the crime occurs when the parent has a pattern of leaving the child in conditions the child is not capable of handling. Further, it seems that the details of this case caused the police to determine that this parent exceeds the limit. I haven’t seen anything in the (admittedly limited) coverage to suggest that they’re wrong about that.

    Is it neglect if you leave your child in the care of someone who has informed you that they do not wish to be responsible for your child?
    There’s still similarities to the Adam Walsh case. Mrs. Walsh left Adam at a department store videogame display, assuming but not confirming that the store’s employees would watch him in her absence. Would you say that he was endangered by her choice to do this? (The store then shooed all the children away from the display, young Adam had no way to find and rejoin his mother, and was subsequently kidnapped and murdered.)

    In summary, I would suggest that if a child can either A) locate and rejoin a parent independently, or B) travel home safely independently, then it is appropriate to leave the child in a mall store alone. If the child cannot do either of these things, then leaving them in a mall store alone is inappropriate. Further, a pattern of inappropriate choices can support a criminal charge for neglect.

  12. Brian July 26, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    In what world is what she did okay? It endangered the child primarily because it was dangerously irresponsible!!! Any creepo couldve taken her child, and no one would be the wiser until it was too late. What if the child has some sort of health issues like seizures or other disabilities? What good parent would leave their child unattended? What if the child crapped and/or pissed their pants? Caring, loving and accountability for ones child was not displayed in this scenario and she was arrested (in my opinion) for endangering her child and child abuse. Shes a bad mom, because no good parent would do that!!! This is ridiculous and disturbing!!! Im a parent and I never, never left my kid unattended and alone, and vulnerable! What a POS sorry excuse of a woman!!!

  13. Michelle July 26, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    Brian, hi, you haven’t been to this blog before have you? The entire point of this blog, and the movement it has created (or supported) is that we believe it’s NOT dangerous to let kids be on their own and have some independence.

    If you say no good parent would ever leave their kid alone in public, well, virtually everyone here disagrees with you. What if the kid has health problems? Well, ostensibly his parent would know that and have planned for it (whether that means not leaving her child alone if he really can’t handle it, or teaching him how to cope with his own medical issues). What if the kid had an accident? Well, we’re talking about a 10yo. The vast majority of healthy 10yos are well past the accidents-in-public stage. What if the child was kidnapped by a “creepo”? Well, here we’re aware of the statistical evidence showing that child abductions by strangers are so incredibly rare that we believe it doesn’t make sense to artificially handicap our children just to avoid something that almost certainly will never happen.

    Personally, I’m not sure I am 100% on board with leaving a 10yo in a store for 2 hours. I don’t feel like I have enough information. As another commenter said, that’s a long time for a kid with no money to hang out in one store, and if he was supposed to just stay there and wait for mom, I think that’s kind of crappy. But, depending on the maturity of my kid, if I didn’t have to contend with every busybody crazypants here in the suburbs, I might let my 10yo shop independently in the mall while I shopped elsewhere, with a plan to meet at a specific place at a specific time (if I knew my child was responsible enough to manage their time wisely and show up in the right place for our meeting). In fact, I 100% DO allow my children to do things like this when they are 12, because that’s when I buy them cell phones. (Personally, I like the added security of cell phones. But, I do realize that people survived just fine without them for millennia, so I definitely don’t consider them necessary for a child’s safety. Just a wonderful modern convenience.)

    As for the whole “2 hours is too long to leave a child under 16,” that is just absolutely MIND BOGGLING. When I was 13, I stayed home alone all day, every day, for the whole summer. And I wasn’t locked in my apartment with strict orders not to answer the door for anyone. I rode my bike, went out to play with my friends, and WENT SHOPPING BY MYSELF. My mom would leave me money, and I would go buy snacks and comic books at the convenience store, pretty much every day. Completely alone. And this would have been… 1994. Not that long ago, and not an idyllic, golden, “safe” past. And I lived in an apartment in the city. A safe neighborhood, but not nearly as nice as where my kids are growing up in the suburbs. For crying out loud, kids start HIGH SCHOOL at 14! High schoolers are too young to shop alone for 2 hours???

  14. elizabeth July 26, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

    The under sixteen thing makes me laugh bitterly. I was taking my brothers to the park and out for ice cream at thirteen (and at nine simply keeping an eye out while near the house). The ohio work age for basic services is fourteen. The age for the red cross youth babysitting classes is eleven to twelve across the board. Does that mean my parents were neglectful? Does that mean employers are putting kids in danger? Does that mean any parent who trusts their kid to babysit is neglectful? What a stupid statement.

  15. Jessica July 26, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    Elizabeth
    The babysitting question drives me nuts too. There are state-endorsed courses to train 12-15 year olds to babysit. So they aren’t supposed to be alone or go anywhere alone, but it’s fine to leave them with an infant?

  16. Dienne July 26, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    Brian – that was sarcasm, right? Or is your exclamation mark key stuck?

  17. Resident Iconoclast July 26, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    It’s two years, between 16 and volunteering to get killed in Iraq.

    Who’s the nuttier population, our government or normal citizens like you and me?

  18. Michelle July 26, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    James, I didn’t read your comment before writing mine, but I have to say that I agree with you for the most part. Scenario 1 is a very different thing than Scenario 2, and the latter certainly justifies concern over the parents’ behavior. I haven’t seen enough to know whether you are correct that THIS situation matches your second scenario (and I can’t watch the video), but for the sake of argument, say it does.

    Where we differ is your assertion that Scenario 1 happens all the time, and nobody cares, and your apparent (?) willingness to assume that if people are getting the police involved, it’s likely not what’s happening. My own experience says differently. Although my kids do frequently do things on their own with no trouble, I’ve also had too many personal experiences where they were scolded, run off, or had the police called when they weren’t doing anything at all except being “too young to be out alone.” (And that includes my then 17yo getting reamed out for walking around the Museum of Natural Science and “not staying with her teacher” — when she wasn’t even there with a school group. She was homeschooled.) You may be skeptical of my claim that my kids were being well-behaved, but I’m not the kind of parent who automatically takes my kid’s word that they were. In every instance, I personally questioned the complaining adult about what my kid was doing wrong, and in every case it was, “Nothing, they just need to be with an adult.” And, obviously, in every case my kid was able to lead the complaining adult back to me, which is how I asked about this.

    Of course, the plural of anecdote is not data. I’d love to see some kind of statistical evidence on this, but honestly I’m not even sure how one would go about getting that.

  19. James Pollock July 26, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

    “Where we differ is your assertion that Scenario 1 happens all the time, and nobody cares, and your apparent (?) willingness to assume that if people are getting the police involved, it’s likely not what’s happening.”

    You haven’t quite got it. I understand how a retail store operates; people who come in with money, and leave with stuff instead of money, generally are allowed to proceed. An irrational manager may have overreacted… but there’s nothing in the known facts that suggests this to be the case. But… let’s follow this path, and see where it goes. The kid is doing absolutely nothing objectionable, and a manager just doesn’t like how long the kid is in the store without making a purchase. Police are called. The cop arrives, hears the manager’s story, and… is also irrational? A fact ALSO not supported by any facts given in the stories. The cop(s) don’t solve the problem by saying “sorry, bud, you’re going to have to leave the store” and leaving as soon as he does, but follow him or keep him nearby until he re-unites with mom, they interview her to get her side of the story, and… ” While this is possible, I don’t see it as the most likely, and, as I said, there’s nothing in the story that suggests that either store’s employees, anyone in mall security, or the cops on the scene were in any way acting irrationally.

    So, no, I am NOT asserting that anyone who got the police involved in a situation (and, we STILL do no know who, exactly, got the police involved) must be right to be concerned about the child.

    What I actually said was “it seems that the details of this case caused the police to determine that this parent exceeds the limit. I haven’t seen anything in the (admittedly limited) coverage to suggest that they’re wrong about that. ”

    I was not there. I do not know anyone involved. I have no knowledge of the locations, people, or events beyond what has been reported by WHEC. It seems unlikely to me that this is the only 10-year-old in the history of Eastview mall to shop alone in the Lego store. Yet, I am unaware of any other arrests of parents of children left in the Lego store of the Eastview mall. From this, I infer that there is something different about THIS case that caused different results. Maybe it’s just that the store manager is fed up with offering free babysitting that he or she has chosen to “make an example” of this one. But… the decision to arrest is not the store manager’s decision to make. The cops conducted an investigation (this story says so). The cops determined that an arrest was warranted (this is self-evident, because an arrest was made. Now, maybe you are familiar with cops who, presented with a case of “this kid came into my store, selected items to purchase, presented sufficient funds to do so, and then left the store. I demand that you arrest the mother!” AND THE COP PROCEEDS TO ARREST THE MOTHER, but I am not.

    There’s also this:
    You disagree with my”assertion that Scenario 1 happens all the time, and nobody cares”
    A few sentences later
    “my kids do frequently do things on their own with no trouble”

    Circling back:
    “I haven’t seen enough to know whether you are correct that THIS situation matches your second scenario ”
    I expressly invented details that are not supported by available evidence. I am not claiming that THIS situation matches that scenario. I AM claiming that IF the second scenario were a true recitation of facts, THEN the charge would be correct and proper. I do not know what happened. The cop who made the arrest was there. Since the news story refers to an investigation, I am assuming that the cop talked to the store employees, the kid, and the mother when they finally tracked her down. I do not blindly accept whatever the cop says as true, is true. I know that cops can make mistakes, and some of them have even been known to lie and.oir overreact to things.. but without a reason to doubt the cop, or evidence which contradicts the cop, I’m satisfied to assume that the cop’s decision was based on the facts at hand, and that the facts at hand justified the action taken. That’s subject to change, should new facts become known which indicate that it should.

    I still haven’t seen anything to object to, in the behavior of the store’s employees or policies, the mall staff, or the police or their policies..

  20. Anna July 26, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

    @Jessica: “The babysitting question drives me nuts too. There are state-endorsed courses to train 12-15 year olds to babysit. So they aren’t supposed to be alone or go anywhere alone, but it’s fine to leave them with an infant?”

    Drives me nuts too! Almost as bad is my state’s guideline that 12 is the minimum age for kids to be unsupervised. The guideline cites another state’s statute (Illinois, I believe) as its authority, and that statute in its turn cites the legal age for babysitting, which is also 12.

    Because obviously it makes sense that a child who yesterday wasn’t considered capable of being alone safely for any length of time, instantly becomes capable of taking full responsibility for another small human being overnight on his or her twelfth birthday.

  21. John July 26, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    I am of two thoughts on this video and the scenario.

    1. If the kid was 12 and hanging around in the Lego Store for two hours unattended, I think the police involved is excessive. As another poster commented, the kid should have know mom would be done shopping and have some sort of arranged plan to meet or contact each other (cell phone etc.) Maybe a scolding by the police for not thinking the scenario better, but a charge is too much.

    2. If the child was eight (8) years old, then I might be more on the police side especially if the mom told the kid to go play for two hours in the Lego Store and there is no communication on where mom is or how to connect with her, then I think mom is being neglectful and then charges might be reasonable. For me, the police officer in the video seemed to be directing my opinion to thought 2 rather than thought 1

    If the mom and the child came to the mall together, then mom should be responsible for the child. and make sure of a plan with the kid. The criminality of this scenario depends a lot on the age. At the age of nine (9), I was taking my six year old sister on a bus and subway to meet my grandparents in Toronto. I still think that was cool, but even though society is generally safer, I would never let my daughter do anything like that now. However, if at the age of 12, my daughter (who is now five) wants to shop by herself or go to the mall with her friends AND I feel she is mature enough, I would take her there or give her permission to go. This North American philosophy of kids “suddenly” being adults at 16 when they can drive is silly if you do not give them freedoms and responsibilities before then. I wish there was a better “guidebook” on these sorts of life scenarios for kids but I also wish that society, politicians and law enforcement were also more flexible in helping parents figure this out and not make such ridiculous arbitrary decisions either.

  22. Papilio July 26, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Agreed, Lenore. Also agree with the commenter who pointed out that things can be bad ideas, but that doesn’t make them illegal per se.

    “When you’re under the age of 16, you shouldn’t be left alone in a store for two hours”

    From a Dutch perspective, this is hilarious. Kids, definitely 7th grade and up (=secondary school), just cycle themselves to the shops to spend the afternoon. Two hours is nothing when you’re with friends.
    Of course, two hours is eternal if you’re not the kind of kid who can amuse himself with little means – assuming a Lego store has some possibilities to play (we have one in the city, but I’ve never been inside…).

    “Who’s the nuttier population, our government or normal citizens like you and me?”

    That question has never been easier than now…

  23. Diane July 26, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

    I think a lot of the “guidelines” for businesses and institutions about when a child can be unaccompanied stem from this idea that if a person isn’t old enough to get themselves there (by car, in many places) then they must not be old enough to be asked to leave, therefore cannot be old enough to be there alone. Which is a really silly path of logic, IMO.
    “We Don’t Have A Protocol For That” should not equal “This Is Not Safe”.

    Hence, the “under 16 alone for more than 2 hours is not okay.”

    I am certainly not anti-car but promoting the idea of kids going places on their own before they can drive seems like it would be a good idea. FWIW I regularly make my kids walk down to the grocery store 1/4 mile away to get a few forgotten groceries.. builds character. 😀

  24. Emily July 26, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

    >>Because obviously it makes sense that a child who yesterday wasn’t considered capable of being alone safely for any length of time, instantly becomes capable of taking full responsibility for another small human being overnight on his or her twelfth birthday.<<

    Well, yeah, Anna. The kids learn these skills at adult-led babysitting courses (sometimes preceded by "home alone" courses) that their parents pay hundreds of dollars for, and then have to check them in and out of, because it's obviously unsafe for soon-to-be-babysitters to have anything less than door-to-door adult supervision wherever they go. *Sarcasm off.*

  25. Greg July 27, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    Having a police officer answer with “it depends” is ridiculous. This is not how laws are supposed to work. They should be clearly defined so citizens understand how to abide by them. When it’s left like this the law is open to all kind of abuse and selective enforcement.

    I applaud this stations efforts to do that, but in the end everything is left vague and confusing.

  26. Coasterfreak July 27, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    Geez, when I was 10 I had this cool gadget I could wear on my wrist. It was called a watch. When my family would go to the mall, as soon as we walked through the door, I would make a hard left straight into the Aladdin’s Castle arcade, whether I had any money or not. Prior to entering the mall, my parents would set a time that they would be back at the arcade to get me (usually a couple of hours). Whether I stayed at the arcade that whole time, or whether I wandered the mall to look at toy or book stores, was of no concern to them as long as I was at Aladdin’s Castle at the appointed time.

    Guess how many times I was questioned for being alone at the mall. Zero.

    If I was not at Aladdin’s Castle at the appointed time, I would get chewed out and the punishment was the next time we went to the mall I had to stay with my parents. Know how many times that happened? One. That’s all it took. 🙂

  27. SKL July 27, 2017 at 8:47 am #

    I don’t think it should be a crime, but I don’t blame the store for discouraging kids loitering over 2 hours at a time.

    But what if it were a library or other public kid-friendly place? I don’t like the cops stating an age limit, especially one as high as 15.

    I was free to go where I pleased all day, all summer, once I was school-aged. Nobody ever complained about it. Nothing bad came of it. Actually being away from home is safer in some ways from being stuck at home when the folks are elsewhere.

  28. Suze July 27, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    I’ve never been in a Lego store but I’m just going to presume that it is set up in a certain section for kids to be interactive. But … I know there are many variables in this scenario but as someone with a husband who has worked in big box retail for over 35 years, I can see the Lego store’s side of this. I know my husband claims unattended children walking around the store isn’t a cause for concern unless they are causing some kind of trouble; yelling, damaging merchandise, opening up packaging etc. He kicked 3 kids out of the store when he was working last night for being in the toy department bouncing balls throw the aisles and generally being little shitty pains in the ass. The point wasn’t that there was no parent just the behaviour. So, this is where I see the Lego Store’s side of things.

  29. James Pollock July 27, 2017 at 8:59 am #

    “Having a police officer answer with “it depends” is ridiculous. This is not how laws are supposed to work.”

    I hate to tell you this, but the correct answer to pretty much ANY legal question is “it depends”. The few cases where the correct answer is NOT “it depends” are known as “bright line rules”, and they are few and far between.

    So, for example, it is illegal to kill someone… except when it isn’t. It is illegal to drive faster than the posted speed limit… except when it isn’t. It is illegal to break a window and enter someone else’s house… except when it isn’t. So… was it illegal to kills someone in (specific case)? It depends. It depends on whether(or not) one of the exceptions applies. Was it illegal to drive 80mph on (date) and (time), in (place)? It depends. It depends on whether (or not) one of the exceptions applies. Is it illegal to break into the residence at (address) on (date) and (time)? It dep… you get the idea. And “it’s illegal, unless an exception applies” is an oversimplification, because the exceptions have exceptions, too, and the exceptions to the exceptions might have exceptions.

    It is illegal to abuse or neglect your child. Is it illegal to, say, leave your 15-year-old at home alone all day while you’re at work? It depends. Is it illegal to let your 7-year-old drive your car? It depends. Is it illegal to leave your kid at a store while you go do other shopping, or, for that matter, anything else? It depends.

  30. Greg July 27, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    James, I’m not arguing that many of our laws are vague at best. What I’m saying is laws SHOULD be knowable. Otherwise we find oureemves in these situations.

    Using the speeding analogy: Imagine we replaced all speed limits with signs that simply said “don’t drive too fast”, and let the police enforce that. That’s where we are with child endangerment laws.

    I SHOULD be able to ask an officer, before the act, if it would be legal. If his answer is, “I don’t know. Go ahead and do it, then we’ll decide” should not be acceptable in s ‘nation of laws’

  31. James Pollock July 27, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    “Imagine we replaced all speed limits with signs that simply said ‘don’t drive too fast’, and let the police enforce that”

    https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.100

  32. Kirsten July 27, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    When I was in Junior High and High School there wasn’t a lot to do in our town but hang out at the mall. This is what hundreds, maybe thousands of kids did back then and they were completely alone. Parents would drop the kids off (or we’d get a ride from an older sibling) and we’d just roam around the mall looking at the opposite sex and “shopping” in various stores. This was starting when I was around 11.

  33. Mike Tang July 27, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

    @James Pollock

    “Imagine we replaced all speed limits with signs that simply said ‘don’t drive too fast’, and let the police enforce that”

    Yeah, and imagine if instead of getting a ticket for violating the vague limitation of the “don’t drive too fast” law, the law lets police actually take the driver to jail and take away their kids, because obviously, “too fast” equals dangerous, and dangerous equals child endangerment. That’s the ideal world you live in, James.

    If the cop car is going 10 mph, all the other cars on the road better go 9 mph just to be on the “safe side,” or risk having the rest of your life ruined with a criminal record.

    Let’s take that up a notch, you better have blond hair and blue eyes just to be on the “safe side” and avoid ending up in the gas chamber…

    You see where I’m going here.

  34. pentamom July 27, 2017 at 8:28 pm #

    What planet is this officer from? Fourteen year olds going to the mall by themselves (meaning, dropped of by a parent, hanging out with other 14 year olds) is totally normal, last I heard.

  35. Not raised coddled July 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

    All this over-excessive “proactive hyper-vigilance” all stems from no cop wants to look inept “on their watch.” The don’t want all the negative media pr for their departments. This is why they push all these over-zealous measures – they don’t want to appear on the national stage if things go south with a child.

  36. Mike Tang August 1, 2017 at 1:16 am #

    @James Pollock

    “There’s still similarities to the Adam Walsh case. Mrs. Walsh left Adam at a department store videogame display, assuming but not confirming that the store’s employees would watch him in her absence. Would you say that he was endangered by her choice to do this? (The store then shooed all the children away from the display, young Adam had no way to find and rejoin his mother, and was subsequently kidnapped and murdered.)”

    This is why I love commenting on your B.S. thought process.

    It’s so easy to use hindsight in judgment–well if Mrs. Walsh hadn’t left Adam at the dept store alone then he wouldn’t have been kidnapped and murdered.

    1. I’m pretty darn sure that if Mrs. Walsh had the power to predict the future that A) she wouldn’t have left her son there, and 2) she would win every lottery and sweepstakes contest ever held

    2. It doesn’t matter how long the kid was in the store. A kid who handles himself well can stay there until store closing for all anyone cares. A kid who’s disruptive may get booted in 10 mins. Either way, there’s no reason to escalate this because there was literally no danger.

    3. How much money the kid had doesn’t matter. It’s not illegal to browse. There’s no minimum purchase requirement to enter the store. What about the kid’s rights? Doesn’t he have rights not to be discriminated by age?

    4. Whether Adam knew a way back to his mother had no impact on his unfortunate fate. I don’t care if he was Rain Man and memorized every phone number in the telephone book, still wouldn’t have helped him.

    Yes, accidents happen and even tragic ones. Such as 9/11. So what now? Do we give in to the terrorists and stop riding on planes altogether? How about we have police do a better job of keeping bad people off the streets rather than take the lazy route and abuse Constitutional rights as a way to make their jobs easier. Yeah, if every kid just stayed home under lock and key there would be a drastic reduction in kidnappings and accidents, but at what cost?

  37. Ashley August 1, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    I work in retail, and this happens a lot. With children that are far too young to be left alone shopping. Even had a 8-9 yr old with 2 younger siblings with her in the store and Mom went on a job interview. I know daycare is expensive and you can’t just trust your kids with anyone anymore…. Ask first! Lol but seriously just not a good idea, nothing bad happened but really these are your kids pride and joys re- think just dropping them at their favorite store.