By Connor Beach
The Suffolk County Legislature passed last month a law requiring amusement parks and water parks to immediately report any criminal conduct, including sex offenses, on their property to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
The bill, sponsored by Legislator Susan Berland (D- Dix Hills), is the result of an incident at Splish Splash Water Park in Calverton last summer where young girls were allegedly groped by a group of men in the wave pool. Park staff failed to immediately notify local law enforcement agencies of the incident or obtain identifying information from the alleged perpetrators, according to county documents.
“I was troubled by the water park incident and introduced this legislation to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Berland said. “The operators of water and amusement parks now need to notify the appropriate authorities when they are told of an alleged criminal act.”
The bill was passed unanimously by the Suffolk County Legislature on Dec. 4, and signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Jan. 14.
Bellone said the law ensures the procedures for reporting crimes at amusement and water parks “are crystal clear.”
Mike Bengtson, general manager of Splish Splash, said the company is “absolutely supportive of any new legislation which may improve guest safety and security at theme parks."
If the owner, operator, employee or agent of an amusement park or water park fails to report a criminal act, the park will be hit with a fine of up to $5,000 for the first violation and a $10,000 penalty for subsequent violations, according to the new law.
The law goes into effect 90 days after it is filed with New York State.