In the last eight years, a total of 32 Disney employees were convicted of sex crimes involving children. A majority of those convicted were identified through a sting operation conducted by the Lake County Sheriff’s Cyber Crime Unit. The charges include possession and distribution of child pornography and “arranging to meet minors for sex.”
Authorities confirmed at least 35 Disney employees were arrested on child sex crime charges between 2006 and 2014. Although a majority of the arrests resulted in convictions, three cases are still pending.
As reported by Huffington Post, those arrested include a costume designer, a gift shop employee, several security guards, maintenance workers, and at least one costumed character.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that two employees were in possession of child pornography on Disney property. The arrests and convictions are specifically disturbing as millions of children visit Disney theme parks every year.
Sheriff Grady Judd said “wherever you find children, you’ll find sexual predators that want to be there.” The sting operation was part of an effort to ensure the safety of all children.
As reported by CNN, Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler discussed the sex crime arrests and convictions in an official statement:
“The numbers reported… represent one one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period. We continue to work closely with law enforcement and organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as we constantly strengthen our efforts.”
Spokespersons for SeaWorld and Universal Studios acknowledge that they have dealt with similar situations. However, they underline the fact that they have a zero-tolerance policy involving crimes against children. All three theme parks conduct thorough background checks on all employees.
Sheriff Judd said background checks simply are not enough. Although all employees are required to go through a screening process, a background check cannot predict future crime. Judd suggests using polygraph examinations to screen all future theme park employees. However, the Polygraph Act of 1988 prevents the use of polygraph examinations to screen current or potential employees of private companies.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross has vowed to propose an exception for some private employers. Ross’s proposal would allow private companies to administer polygraph examinations if their “activities would involve the care or supervision of children or regular access to children… “
Ross believes the legislation would protect children from potential child predators. Although the proposal was designed to protect children, it is certain to draw stark criticism from human rights organizations.
The Disney child sex crime arrests and convictions are certainly disturbing. It would be impossible to prevent the employment of all potential predators. However, several officials are working together to reduce the numbers.
[Image via Miamien Lamira]