When going to an amusement park, people at the parks look to the staff and security to ensure their safety. While the patrons of these parks trust the staff, many can admit to wondering if certain staff members of the park could be trustworthy.
This doubt became reality when a sex sting in Polk County, Florida led to the arrest of 18 men. One of these men was a Walt Disney World security guard, while another was a janitor at SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove.
After the arrests were made, the Polk County sheriff’s office explained how the authorities successfully apprehended the 18 predators. During the operation, undercover detectives posted fictitious ads and profiles on various websites and mobile phone applications where they posed as children. Despite the repeated warnings and media coverage of past operations, numerous men responded to the ads and then proceeded to chat online, email, text and talk on the phone with the undercover detectives who posed as minors.
These arrests were merely the latest in a string of apprehensions in which employees at amusement parks have been charged with various sex crimes.
According to CNN, from 2006 to 2014, 42 amusement park employees were arrested for sex crimes involving children. CNN found 35 of those individuals were employed at Disney World, five at Universal and two at SeaWorld.
With the exception of two child pornography cases, every other crime that those individuals were involved in took place outside of the theme parks, and none of the cases involved children who attended the theme parks. Fortunately, this remains true with the suspects in this latest sex sting, but that is the only good news that can be reported in this dismaying story.
Just imagine for a second that the predators who were arrested were not being set up by law enforcement agencies, but actually chatting with children online. It is extremely hard to think about, because predators can easily lure children into their trap and make them victims among millions of other young victims. It is not pleasant to think about, but it is a horror that so many young girls and boys have faced.
To make matters worse, there is no easy solution to this problem. While some predators have criminal records, many others do not. Without a previous criminal history, there is no reason for theme parks not to employ these individuals. If a predator has yet to be caught committing any crime, how would it then be possible for pre-employment background checks to expose them? These individuals are more commonly the most dangerous as they lurk in the shadows, slowly but carefully waiting for the right moment to make their move and strike down the souls of innocent people.
Many people look at this situation and believe that there is nothing anyone can do. I do not believe that is the case because sex sting operations have continuously shown that there is a way to turn the tables on sexual predators: to prey against those who prey on the fearful. The 18 predators that were caught in this latest sting will probably never be able to prey on another child for the rest of their lives.
The only thing one can hope for is that authorities, not just in Florida, but in every state, beef up the amount of sex sting operations they perform in order to put as many predators in prison as possible. It would take a lot of time, effort and compromise to increase the amount of sex sting operations that are performed in this country, but the hard work would be worth it.
Men, women and children all across the country have the right to feel safe in public places and on the web. People need to hear stories like this because it proves that there is a feasible way to win the battle against sexual predators in the United States and to reward the faith of citizens who put their trust in the staff and security sworn to protect them.