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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

Understanding the Importance of Rink Security Written by: Lori Lovely

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n 2011, a man opened fire at Forum Roller World skating rink on a Saturday night in Grand Prairie, Texas, during a private family birthday party attended by about 30 people. Before taking his own life, the shooter killed five people and wounded four, having targeted his estranged wife and her family after an argument. During the shooting, rink owner Walt Hedrick reportedly pushed children out of the line of fire in an effort to protect them. Attendees and even nearby residents who witnessed the event were caught completely by surprise. One told the AP that it never occurred to him that someone would have a gun in the rink. It hadn’t occurred to Hedrick, either. No security guards or police were in attendance. This type of domestic violence is seldom seen at a skating rink, so Hedrick decided to reopen the next day in order to show that “skating is still a fun and safe activity for parents and kids.” But violence is not as rare as it once was. Consequently, security is increasingly important.

A cautionary tale or two More often, the violence that erupts at rinks is perpetrated by teenagers. Upskate Roller Rink was the site of numerous violent outbursts, with a lengthy police record that includes felony assault, 56 /

stabbings, felony reckless endangerment with a vehicle and other crimes, dating back to the mid1980s. Gang violence and clashes between a white separatist organization and black youth were frequent occurrences. After teens nearly toppled a cab in the parking lot in 2000, rink owners Deborah and Franco Marchese beefed up security by hiring four security guards and implementing a “no drugs, no weapons” policy with checkpoints where skaters were frisked and swept with metal detectors.

After the Christmas Day killing, Police Chief Thomas Kraemer deemed the shooting a breach of the peace, adding that at least seven separate incidents of assaults, fights and unruly crowds during the year led to his recommendation to close the rink permanently. Skate 22’s owner asked for time to implement additional security, but the town council revoked his license. It’s a cautionary tale to take violent incidents seriously – and to implement security measures before it’s too late.

After continued incidents, they introduced a stricter admission policy, allowing minors only if accompanied by parents or guardians. They thought they had adequate security measures in place – and yet, the violence continued. In 2003, one teen slashed skaters with a knife, on the floor under the disco ball, resulting in what the New Windsor police chief Walter Koury described as “total mayhem.”

Even proximity to a police station isn’t a deterrent to violence at skating rinks. Chez Vous Roller Skating Rink, located in one of Boston’s tougher neighborhoods that has few other resources for kids, enjoyed a reputation as a refuge for youth … until the day a group of teenagers arrived and began shooting at 250 skaters, wounding seven. The shooting resulted from an altercation between groups of teenagers.

In his report, Koury wrote that the owners did not “know how to provide a safe environment to those who attend,” adding the incident was “only a continuation” of numerous other violent acts and he feared it would turn deadly.

Having a good publicity plan in place, knowing when to close the rink, having a good security team in place, outdoor guidelines, cameras and a good plan of action is imperative.

It did at Skate 22 on Christmas Day in 2009. A fight broke out in the parking lot at the rink in Union, New Jersey where 100 teenagers were skating, resulting in the shooting death of one boy.

Security measures

Rinksider - The Roller Skating Business Magazine |

Despite the parallel of “teen night” on Saturdays, Kate’s Skating Rinks in North Carolina has not experienced the level of violence some other rinks have seen. Paul Estes, manager,

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Profile for Roller Skating Association International

Rinksider Volume 27 / Issue 6  

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