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Karin S

Trouble in Downtown Disney?

Published: July 2, 2007 at 11:33 AM

I just read online in the Orlando Sentinel that a device similar to a pipe bomb was found in a dumpster at Downtown Disney around 12:30 am today. Fortunately, no one was hurt and no damage was done, except to the trash recepticle. Downtown Disney has been in the news lately - there was the couple who claimed to have been kidnapped from the parking lot; 4 Florida State football recruits were banned from Disney for life when they didn't leave the area when asked (the ban has since been reversed). According to the local police and Disney security, they are trying to keep people from loitering as there has been an increase of gang activity in the Orlando area.

I am interested in your opinions on a couple of topics.

First - Do you support Disney in their efforts to control the actions of the visitors at Downtown Disney?

Second - With the Fourth of July coming up, the increase in summer visitors and the current world-wide concern with terrorism, do you think the problems of the past few weeks will result in fewer visitors to the area?

Replies (21)

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: July 2, 2007 at 11:57 AM

No, I do not think it will be any different than any other holiday weekend at Downtown Disney. I do support all the actions they are trying to take on a string of bad incidents.While I think the ban for life is a little extreme, Disney has a responsiblity to keep that area super safe. The four prospects were just in the area at the wrong time. It sounds a little fishy to me since I would assume it would take very suspicious activity or bad behavior to have the Disney security on you like that. The pipe bomb thing, in my opinion, just sounds like more of a vandalism thing than a terrorist attack. Thanks for the info! I hope Disney and the state of FL can get it under control
Domenik Jost
Writer

Published: July 2, 2007 at 12:07 PM

Well I agree with Anthony, but I have to say the vandalism has to be kept under control too. I mean just think about it, terrorists can see through vandalism if they would be able to smuggle things in without Disney noticing and they would be able to plot attacks from there, so I think vandalism like that with a pipe bomb should be a top priority thing. The last thing you want is a terrorist attack on a theme park, and especially on the "Happiest Place on Earth." Imagine a bomb going off at Disney and killing hundreds or even just hurting a single person. For one that would bring Disney on a downfall, and also it would be in the center of the news for months and maybe years to come, you don't want that kind of attention.
Erik Yates

Published: July 2, 2007 at 3:47 PM

If there were to be a terrorist attack on disney, it would be the downfall of theme parks as we know them. Disney is held to the highest standard, and sets those standards in the industry. If they fail, its almost as if they whole theme park industry would fail, and you will see visitors flock away from parks for years....for if you arent safe at disney (and this past year has shown me that you are no safer at disney than you are at six flags over ga) where can you be safe at?
Will all these events stop people? Most likely not. They put up blinders to events like these, and while I was at disneyquest this past weekend, most people I spoke with had no idea that the events had even taken place. So no...they will not affect attendance at Downtown Disney. However with that said, if I cant get a close parking space at night...I dont go....so, therefore I dont go to downtown disney at night. Call me cautious.
Steve Smegner

Published: July 2, 2007 at 4:16 PM

I have been to WDW many times. I live in Texas but we make the trip 3-4 times per year spending 1-3 weeks each trip. However I refuse to take my family to Downtown Disney any more. The place is overrun with thugs, gangstas, or wannabees. I have seen Asian, Mexican and Black's flashing gang signs. I do not have the time or interest to try and separate the real gangs from the ones that dress like them so I avoid it altogether. This is a similar problem Disneyland has as well in the Magic Kingdom. I love the 'other world' escape upon entering WDW but Downtown Disney is nothing more than a standard club area. I totally applaud their efforts to do what it takes to help keep me and my family safe from gangs and terrorists.
Robert Niles
Editor

Published: July 2, 2007 at 5:57 PM

Question from the Left Coast: Anyone in Orlando care to compare the crowd situation at DD with that at CityWalk? Where do you feel safer and less bothered by other guests?
Claudine Deshaies

Published: July 2, 2007 at 6:15 PM

One thing about Downtown Disney: You don't go through any kind of security to get in, it's more like a regular-type mall. At CityWalk, you have to go through the security line to get in, making it the same as going into any of the parks themselves.
Casey Holt

Published: July 2, 2007 at 6:37 PM

Disney has always had a good reputation and they have some how manged to stay out of the media spot light when undesirable events occur so as long as they can up hold that standard they will not loose visitors.
Richard Keskinen

Published: July 2, 2007 at 6:46 PM

I remember a short time ago, you had to pay to go into the bar area. Now, anyone has full access, free of charge. This was a bad idea from the beginning and it is no surprise to me that this has drawn the wrong types of people. I have seen girls half-dressed who appeared to be underage and drinking while in this area. This is a very bad thing for Disney to be involved with. It's only a matter of time before something really bad goes down and they close it...
Robert Niles
Editor

Published: July 2, 2007 at 8:15 PM

Didn't remember that about CityWalk. I was going to note that at CityWalk, you have to pay for parking, since you use the same lot as the parks. But at Downtown Disney, free lots are available. Here is California, both CityWalk and Downtown Disney have paid garages and lots.

Using the "low hanging fruit" theory, the cheapest destination to get into is going to have the most problems. Given the difficulty of "profiling" gang members without getting yourself accused of racial harassment (or, in the state of Florida, the far more unpopular offense of interfering with FSU football recruiting), I wouldn't be surprised to see Disney opt for the much more logistically simple and financially lucrative option of... charging people to park at Downtown Disney.

How much? A buck more than CityWalk charges.

Erik Yates

Published: July 2, 2007 at 8:23 PM

Disney has not been out of the spotlight...they've been in it because of downtown disney. They also still charge to get into Pleasure Island....the clubs anyway, you can walk around outside the clubs.....
Its the same with City Walk...you can walk around the clubs and shops, you just cant go inside the clubs after a certain hour.
A comparison? Some will call me biased.....But Citywalk is definately a safer feeling atmosphere, in my opinion anyway. I think this stems from the design of the area, honestly. It seems that there is just so much open area in Downtown disney, everything is stretched out so far that you cant see from one end to the other.
With the exception of a few places in City Walk, you pretty much have everything within shouting distance of each other, more crowded together and ontop of each other. Because of that fact I think there are more people to see and report any kind of mischevious behavior. Now I have seen "gang" looking teens in CityWalk, and there have been minor scuffles....but the only reported problem happened in the parking garage, and that stemmed from a fight in the parks during HHN.
Gangs are becoming a large problem in all of Florida, and they tend to congregate in areas where they can "hang" out.....malls are another common place...basically anywhere mom and dad will drop them off, as most of them are too young to drive.
Hopefully disney will get a handle on their recent security issues.
Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: July 2, 2007 at 8:40 PM

Nothing against Citywalk, but didn't they have their share of questionable things as well? As said before, trouble tends to come in areas where there is large social areas (like malls). My question would be is this a problem in CA? I mean, if we are comparing overall safety of areas, DL seems to be in a more questionable area than DD or Citywalk. I could be wrong and this might be a new trend. Its a real shame, DD is really great!
Robert Niles
Editor

Published: July 2, 2007 at 10:01 PM

Hey, we did this stuff in California 10 years ago. It just takes that long for trends to get to Florida.... ;-)

Seriously, this is neither Disney's nor Universal's job. The solution to gangs is two-fold: First, you need a strong local economy that's creating entry-level jobs paying a living wage, to reduce the economic incentive to join a gang and to do the drugs that enrich the gang. (Theme parks could help here by increasing their wages instead of nickel- and diming- their employees with every contract.)

Second, you need local law enforcement that takes a strong, proactive approach to identifying, inflitrating and monitoring local gangs. Once gangs figure out that the cops are watching and noting everything each member does, they tend to quit doing things like calling attention to themselves in public places, like Downtown Disney.

But Orlando/Orange County has to do that. The theme parks can't as effectively as needs be. That said, the parks do need to enable the local police and sheriff's officers to come on property and monitor the crowds. If that is done in plainclothes, it probably wouldn't upset the other guests, and, frankly, might be more effective in the long run in helping the police gather information.

Brian Emery

Published: July 3, 2007 at 6:41 AM

There is some really great info about Downtown Disney. I did not know it was so cynical there.

Obviously Disney needs professional security to clean that area up. Not just a few lower wage security folks, but a real professional security company to ensure the safety of their patrons. Then could easily hire off duty police or Correction officers to help out

Lee Mak

Published: July 3, 2007 at 6:50 AM

if some kids blew up a garbage can, I would hardly consider that a terrorist act and if it happenned in the park, we would have never heard about it unless we heard it from a guest. Disney is tight lipped about stuff like this and if there was ever a major attempt on a theme park like disney, it wouldn't be a garbage can in a public area...it would be inside the park by/in a major attraction area. This was nothing more than kids being disrespectful and destructive. Oh, and when they say device similar to a pipebomb, that must be code for two m-80's stuck together with duct tape...a vandal and hoodlum favorite.

Because Downtown is open to the public and they have taken down the the barrier to Pleasure Island (and the security/bouncers that went with it), there are more locals coming to hang around and for most people who come to Disney, they leave their home states and cities to come to a place that should be free of gang colors and personal threats. I came back from WDW a month or so ago and fully understand what is being said here. Although it is on Disney property, the downtown area is built to attract local people when park attendance fluxuates during the year...same with Citywalk. Due to this, it draws the local element and Orlando has its nasty parts, like any major urban area. If you want to clean up Downtown from that element of the population and make the tourists safer, charge for parking on the site. You will be amazed at how quick it will change when loiterers realize they have to cough up some dough...it goes against the whole loitering thing and they will be history.

Unfortunately, since the retailers and eateries are their own entities renting/leasing on Disney property, they will not charge for parking in the lots there...they will loose revenue if consumers have to pay to browse at their stores. It wouldn't work...Disney will have to step up the security force (by hiring people under the age of sixty to police the area) downtown and eject rowdies or no-good-nicks that cause trouble.

Domenik Jost
Writer

Published: July 3, 2007 at 7:45 AM

One thing about City Walk, before you enter, you get screened by security as already said by someone else here. Universal screens people as they leave the parking area to go on the bridge over to City Walk. Also after 6 p.m. it is free parking at Universal as well. So City Walk crowds don't necessarily have to pay unless they get there before 6 o'clock. City Walk does have security on duty during the entire day. They do also bring in local law enforcement to help out all the time, especially after special events, concerts, or just your busy summer day.
Keith Lutman

Published: July 3, 2007 at 7:47 AM

I agree that charging for parking would cut down on loitering. However, as a tourist having already paid $10 to park at one of the parks all day, I would resent having to pay more to park at DD, which is just a place to eat for me. In order to drive off loiterers and retain paying customers, I suggest that charge for parking, but a. allow free parking with a parking pass from one of the Disney parks, or b. credit anyone who eats at a restaurant or spends more than a certain amount ($50?) at a shop.

Computers and scanning devices would make this easy to do. You could scan the parking receipt that you got earlier in the day (at a Disney park) at the entry gate for free entry.

If you didn't go to a park that day, you would pay when you enter the lot like anywhere else and get a ticket with a barcode. Take the ticket with you to a restaurant or shop, and have it scanned when you get the bill. If you meet the criteria you would automatically get a credit back to your original credit card. (This would not subtract from the restaurant's bill, it would just indicate that a credit would issue for parking. This could only happen once obviously.)

This would not help cash customers, but tourists are definitely going to have credit cards. (If you can afford to go to Disney, you definitely have a credit card.)

Locals who do not have credit cards could sign up for a "parking account" to which money could be credited and used the next time they go to DD. (In other words, you still have to pay once, but it would be free after that as long as you meet the usual "free parking" criteria.) Gang members are not going to sign up for an account.

Mark Wilkinson

Published: July 3, 2007 at 9:06 AM

It's been a while since we were last at WDW - 2002. Back then, Downtown Disney seemed safe and we went several evenings, mainly to the World of Disney store for shopping and such. And in every case, the place was packed and we didn't notice any bad elements.

With that said, one possible solution is to "hem in" the Downtown Disney area to resort guests only. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the sales of all items (food, drink, gifts, etc) across the DD area is from people staying at WDW vs not. Assuming the percentage is high enough to warrant it, this could work.

Gate in the entire area (it's already got clearly defined entry/exit points, so this could be done.) Each gate has a security station for checking all guests coming in, metal detectors, etc. Some may say this would keep them from visiting - not me! I would feel a lot more secure knowing everyone else inside DD with me had gone through the same checkpoint and procedure. A dress code would be clearly posted, saying no foul language on clothing, no gang insignias, and good taste (no partial nudity or butt cracks, etc.) Enforced at the check in as best they can. They do this in the parks, they can do it here.

Entry for WDW resort guests (and the nearby DD Hotels) would be free with valid park admission or resort ID. Anyone else would need to purchase a ticket - say $10 adults, $5 children, perhaps higher - whatever a fair and reasonable price would be, while still being a prohibitive cost for those wanting a free hangout.

For locals, have a few select nights each month, requiring the same security checkins, with a valid ID or visiting with a parent ONLY. On those nights, double security with a mix of very obvious uniformed security teams and plain clothes teams.

To anyone who says they would feel uncomfortable, I respectfully ask, "If you aren't doing - or planning - anything wrong, while feel uncomfortable?"

For Disneyland (my neck of the woods), I think they could move the DD side of the security checkpoint to near the Disneyland Hotel entrance, making the entire area enclosed and requiring the checkpoint.

My two cents. :)

Mark ºoº

Robert OGrosky

Published: July 3, 2007 at 11:55 AM

I disagree with Erik that sometype of event at DTD would spell the end for theme parks.
While disney theme parks I do believe are safe and you can control to a great degree what is brought into the parks, that isnt the case at the parking lots of the theme parks or DTD. Do you know how easy it would be for someone who is willing to die for there cause to drive a vehicle filled with explosives into DTD or a theme park parking lot and blow it up and what little could be done to stop it if the person acts in a rational manner before doing so. What almost happened in London could happen in any parking lot or street in America. in london they were lucky the cell phones didint trigger the bombs.

And I totally disagree with Robert N in his idea of combating crime by increasing wages at a theme park or anywhere else for that matter.
From dealing with gang members on a daily basis there is no way a so-called living wage would have any effect at all on gang members. They perfer to make money doing so in a illegal manner and dont want the hassles of having to arrive at a job on time on a daily basis. You want to combat gang members you stop having poor/illiterate women producing numerous kids with multiple fathers who have no interaction with the kids they created. The peer pressure of thugs in certain neighborhoods along with rap music/video's/video games etc will influence young kids who are basically brought up as being feral kids will matter much more than a government imposed living wage will.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: July 3, 2007 at 2:02 PM

Robert O, by the time someone's *in* a gang, it's too late to get them out without substantial intervention. Living wages are gang *prevention*, though, and the literature on the connection between low entry-level wages and increased crime is substantial and undeniable.

Even for people already in gangs, job training and placement can help pick off members on the edges of gangs, if part of an intervention driven by law enforcement. But the long-term solution needs both prevention and aggressive pursuit of gang leaders. And a healthy reduction in the demand for illegal drugs, of course.

Again, I come back to my point that this is out of Disney's (or any theme park's) league. Bring in the gang-trained cops and either put people through a security check or charge for parking, if you really want to keep the troublemakers out.

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: July 4, 2007 at 2:30 PM

How does Universal screen? I don't remember!
Robert OGrosky

Published: July 7, 2007 at 11:25 AM

Most people who are in gangs join one before they are 15/16 yrs of age which is the common point where most kids enter the workplace(unless employed by mom/dad). So thee allure of working at McDonalds or the mall will not win out over the easy money made by gang members and the lack of responsability that comes with being a gang member,

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