Nobody, other than the participants, knows exactly what led to an A&W customer being roughed up by security at Centre Square Mall late last month.That said, one rhetorical question helps to put the situation into perspective: What would have happened if the mall security guard had just given Ranelda McNeely the key to the washroom?

McNeely, a 23-year-old pregnant mother, had just eaten with her family at A&W and needed to use the washroom. She found a security guard on the lower level of the mall and asked him for a key. Somehow, the situation escalated into a three-way fracas between McNeely, the security guard and for some reason, his mother.

A&W serves food, so it has to provide a washroom. According to A&W’s manager, customers have access to a mall washroom but employees aren’t given any specific policy on how to guide patrons there. They don’t stipulate customers need to use a certain washroom, and they don’t advise patrons to carry any proof they are A&W customers.

Obviously, something needs to change here. Either the mall needs to come up with an easy-to-understand policy for access to the washroom, or security just needs to provide access without question.

It certainly does seem like at the mall, the pendulum has swung pretty hard from a laissez-faire attitude on loitering to a crackdown toward it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Felix Seiler, one of the mall’s owners says, the mall has long been a rough place. Nobody deserves to come to work to be harassed, spit on or swarmed. And shop owners pay good money to rent space, so they deserve to be able to run their businesses in peace.

There will be growing pains for sure but the transition will go much smoother if those in security roles at the mall use their heads before judging people and perhaps even post a clear washroom and loitering policy.