News Articles

Authors question Disney’s diligence regarding pedophiles at theme par

WASHINGTON (BP)–The authors of a new book on The Disney Company allege the company is reluctant to address problems with pedophiles working at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
In a chapter from their book, “Disney: The Mouse Betrayed,” Peter and Rochelle Schweizer allow that the company may not be able to keep sexual abusers of children from the Magic Kingdom.
“But what troubles Orlando-area law enforcement officials is Disney’s unwillingness to do much about it and the company’s resistance to cooperating with police efforts to tackle the problem,” the authors wrote in their recently released book.
For instance, in 1995 a senior law enforcement official with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement organized a task force to prevent child exploitation in central Florida. The group included representatives from local, state and federal agencies.
Since theme parks are magnets for children, they also attract pedophiles, Doug Rehman (no longer with the department) told the Schweizers. The task force’s goal was to go into the field and prevent crimes from occurring, he said.
The officer said one method featured hour-long seminars for private security officers to help alert them to the methods of pedophiles cruising the parks.
Both he and policeman Matt Irwin said almost everyone expressed an interest in the training. This included such attractions as Sea World, Universal Studios and even smaller water parks. But, Irwin added, “Everyone is interested except Disney.”
The officer said he had talked to a Disney security employee who was interested but that the idea had been quashed somewhere in upper management.
In addition, Rehman said Disney had resisted the task force’s efforts to place agents at the park to conduct surveillance of suspected pedophiles.
Even when a sex crime is committed at the theme park, Disney shies away from calling law enforcement, according to the Schweizers’ book.
They cited the 1996 case of a Japanese Travel Bureau agent who reportedly told an investigator her daughter twice saw a man at a water park with his zipper down, touching himself.
After confronting the employee who matched her description, Disney officials fired him. But they waited seven hours to call the sheriff’s office, the Schweizers wrote. There was no opportunity to make an arrest because both the offender and witnesses had left, the authors wrote.
Another officer related a story to the authors about a man who traveled around to Disney hotels and took close-up shots of children 3 or 4 years old as they climbed out of the pools.
Sometimes their bathing suits weren’t covering their backsides properly, the policeman said, and they knew the man was going to make a move on a child at some point. However, he said, Disney didn’t want any part of pursuing the suspect.
“The problem comes when they fail to report incidents,” Irwin told the authors. “We don’t know until it’s too late and the case is blown, or we never find out.”
The authors are critical of Disney for failing to conduct criminal background checks of its employees, which they say would weed out people with convictions for sexual offenses. However,
the company told USA Today recently that it began requiring such checks last summer.
A call seeking further comment from Disney World on the issue was not returned.

    About the Author

  • Ken Walker