ORANGE PARK, Fla. – The Clay County Sheriff’s Office closed the Orange Park Mall on Saturday evening due to “juvenile disturbances,” reigniting concerns over safety in the shopping center that has been open since 1975.
The incident was one of a handful that News4JAX has covered in recent months.
There was a similar issue in December when a fight inside the mall was confused for a possible active shooter situation. In August 2021, fights broke out at a mall carnival, causing similar chaos.
For years, News4JAX has documented several of these types of issues in the area, and Clay County leaders have tried to transform the mall and surrounding areas because of a bad reputation, but they’ve run into hurdles.
News4JAX spoke to local shoppers last year who said they steer clear of the mall.
“We don’t go hardly at all between the kids, ruckus. Just being all over the place. No order. It’s not really safe. I don’t take my daughter up there,” Kristin Sidders said in 2021.
At the time, News4JAX spoke with the then-head of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. He said he was in the process of meeting with county and business leaders who were frustrated.
“It’s hard. A lot of them are sitting in this room right now and I have to talk to them,” said Wendell Chindra, who was president until December 2021.
County leaders have pushed to improve the Blanding Boulevard and Wells Road corridors through what is called the “Gateway to Clay Initiative” by applying for grants to help improve security in the area.
That has hit roadblocks with drug issues on Wells Road and homeless issues on Blanding Boulevard, some of which have been improved with things like the clearing of a homeless camp near the mall that was dismantled in January.
When the last incident at the mall happened last year, the mall sent News4JAX a statement that read in part: “The safety of our guests, retailers and employees is always paramount and our first priority. We take a holistic approach to safety with our industry best practices and programs, which include our own security force 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on foot and in vehicles, and other modern security procedures, special operations plain clothes officers from time to time, crisis planning, and lockdown drills.”
News4JAX received the following statement from Orange Park Mall ownership after reaching out for more information:
“The safety of our guests, retailers and employees is our top priority. For more information, please contact Clay County Sheriff’s Office.”