Six Flags' Metal Detectors Uncover Drugs, Not Guns Machines Detect Paraphernalia, Increase Arrests

Article excerpt

Byline: Scott Silvestri Daily Herald Staff Writer

They quietly made their debut at the front gates of Six Flags Great America 2 1/2 months ago.

Aside from making the wait a little longer for thrill-seekers to get into the Gurnee theme park, they haven't caused much of a stir.

But since new metal detectors were introduced at the entrance, Great America security and local police already have seen the benefits - but not for what you might think.

So far, detectors have yet to turn up a concealed handgun. And they have flagged a legal pocketknife only here and there, police say.

What the detectors have led security to is marijuana - 23 times in June alone, according to Gurnee Police Department arrest records.

"Most of the arrests have revolved around drugs," Deputy Police Chief Hank Schwarz said of what officers have found since the detectors went into use.

Those drug cases are the only significant change in arrests since the metal detectors were introduced, Schwarz said.

Compared to June a year ago - when Great America conducted only purse or bag searches at the front gate - just two cannabis arrests were logged at the park, according to police statistics.

Metal detectors are indirectly playing a major role in authorities finding the drugs.

Police reports from May 1 - when Great America began using the detectors - through this week show what typically leads police to the hidden marijuana is metal drug paraphernalia or other metal objects people carry that cause security guards to conduct more thorough searches.

Those other objects are anything from keys, to metal components of a pager or cellular phone, a metallic makeup compact or other items.

"It has had the added result of uncovering these things, where as in the past they might have gotten through," said Great America spokeswoman Connie Costello. …