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Glazer: Observe and report? Not if you have a conscience
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When our daughter, Molly, was about 14, we started allowing her to meet up with her friends at the movies. We would drop her off and pick her up. She'd have a couple of hours of freedom from parental scrutiny, a precious commodity to a new teenager.

Back then, in 2001, there was still a theater at Lakeshore Mall. The feature had ended earlier than we'd thought and she and her friends had to wait a few minutes until my husband arrived to pick them up.

While they waited, a group a miscreants, those creepy mall rats who hang around the exits smoking and hurling curses and crude insults at one another decided to make sport with Molly. They were whistling and approaching her from several sides.

Poor Molly was terrified. She kept her wits about her and remembered what she'd been taught: if it looks like there's going to be trouble, find someone in authority — a policeman, a security guard, a shopkeeper, any responsible looking adult — and just stand near them.

That's what she did. There was a security guard a few steps away so she approached him and asked the time. Incredibly, instead of putting two and two together and realizing what was going on around him, he simply smirked and mocked her high-pitched little girl's voice: "Please sir, do you have the time?"

He was playing to the crowd who had been threatening her. He piled humiliation on top of her terror.

Then he announced that everyone needed to leave the mall. He proceeded to usher Molly and her friends out in the midst of the kids who were threatening them. Molly begged to be allowed to wait inside but he refused. Thankfully, her father drove up just then so we'll never know how that would have played out.

As soon as I heard what had happened, I wrote a strongly worded letter to mall management. I railed about the security guard, the person who was supposed to keep my child safe and who had, instead, placed her in harm's way. Within two days I received a conciliatory phone call from a nice woman in mall management.

She agreed the situation had been handled badly and she had taken steps to correct the problem.

Now it appears I was wrong. Maybe that guard wasn't there to protect my child. Maybe he was simply there to "observe and report."

That's how it works in Seattle. On Jan. 28, security cameras captured an incident in which a 15-year-old girl approached three uniformed guards in a bus tunnel, telling them she thought she was about to be assaulted.

Another teen girl ran up, shoved the victim and began punching her. They fell to the floor. The assailant got up and kicked and stomped on the girl. I counted at least five strong kicks directly to her head. A young man grabbed her bag and ran away.

The guards, who have orders to "observe and report," called police. That's it. One was standing close enough to touch both the victim and the assailant and did nothing.

Naturally, this incident has been a hot topic in the shop this week.

Carrie Hutchins told of attending a football game with her grandson some years ago. She rounded a corner to find a group of boys beating on a young man. One was holding his leg out straight while another attempted to jump on it and break it.

Carrie had observed enough. She started screaming and threw herself over the boy's leg. People came running. The assailants scattered. A sixty-something grandmother had saved the day.
Observe and report? That's not Carrie's style. No siree.

I didn't hear a single person say they felt the guards acted appropriately. No one could understand how they simply stood by and watched. Forget the mandate from their employer. How do three grown men watch a young girl being brutalized and not respond? Who raised these people?

I know, I know. We live in dangerous, litigious times. Almost anyone could have a weapon. Well-intentioned actions could later be interpreted differently and lead to all sorts of pesky legal issues.

But still, as adults we have a certain responsibility to do the right thing, to keep children, both our own and those of others, safe. At least I think we do.

So what would I have done in that bus tunnel? I'm not sure but I would have done something. Screamed. Stepped between them. Thrown coffee in the assailant's face. Something.

Albert Einstein said it best: "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." Amen, professor.

Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears regularly on Fridays and on