NEW THEATER SHOOTING Can Movie Theaters Here Be Safer? Theaters: Security Guard Prefers Random Checks over Metal Detectors

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

NEW THEATER SHOOTING Can Movie Theaters Here Be Safer? Theaters: Security Guard Prefers Random Checks over Metal Detectors


Byline: Jamie Sotonoff jsotonoff@dailyherald.com By Jamie Sotonoff jsotonoff@dailyherald.com

In the wake of the latest movie theater shooting, Wednesday in Tennessee, is it safe to go to the movies in the suburban theaters?

Suburban theater operators and mayors say yes, but more security might be on the horizon.

Lincolnshire Mayor Liz Brandt said she's concerned about security in her town's Regal Cinemas theater and said it's an issue the village is going to address.

Theaters are "becoming a target now. It's in the dark. And there's usually a good number of people," she said.

A 29-year-old man was killed by police Wednesday after he unleashed a torrent of pepper spray while wielding what later turned out to be a pellet gun at a screening of "Mad Max: Fury Road" at a movie theater in Antioch, Tennessee, near Nashville. A person was treated for injuries from a hatchet the man also was carrying, authorities said.

Two weeks ago, a 59-year-old man killed two people and himself at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Brandt suggested adding metal detectors for security or banning backpacks at the theater in Lincolnshire.

"I don't know why you'd need a backpack in a movie theater," she said.

A suspicious wire-filled backpack in a Lombard movie theater in 2012 brought in the FBI and police, said movie security guard R. Amir Rasheed, of Palatine. It turned out to be nothing, but it's one of many suspicious things he's seen in suburban theaters

since he started working for Vanguard International Protection in 2006 doing security and anti-piracy protection.

While he hasn't seen anyone bring a gun into a movie theater, he's confiscated knives and escorted people out who were acting suspiciously.

Rasheed doesn't think it's necessary to use metal detectors and check bags for every movie and every patron, but he said random checks might be a good option.

"People might not like it at first. They see us wearing a suit and tie, and a surveillance earpiece, checking bags. They'll say, 'Is the president here?' But at the end of the movie, we're saying, 'Thank you for coming out' ... and after a while, they see our presence, and they can go away with a sense of peace."

Roberta Rapata and her husband, Timothy O'Connor, Bloomingdale residents, have owned the Catlow Theater in Barrington since 1988.

Rapata said Wednesday the couple make it a rule to be on site for the entire time a film shows at their theater.

"We're serious about watching people and making sure nothing weird goes on," Rapata said. "We've gone to bigger theaters, and there's nobody over the age of 25 working there. I'm not saying big business doesn't care, but it's less of a hands-on situation."

The Catlow caters to a family audience or an older audience, and problems are rare, but staff members stay alert, Rapata said.

"We have a staff that's pretty much on guard. They're checking things, watching," she said. "They're all trained to keep their eyes open."

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the police department already has a presence at Gurnee Mills, where the village's 20-screen theater is.

In addition to a police substation at Gurnee Mills, police operate a visitor safety unit at the mall. She said the mall also has a "tough" security company that augments the guards who patrol Gurnee Mills.

Police and Gurnee Mills representatives meet regularly to discuss security and periodically conduct active shooter training.

"Our police department realizes this is a very important location," Kovarik said.

Classic Cinemas, a Downers Grove-based chain that operates 13 theaters in northern Illinois, stepped up its security measures after the July 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

CEO Chris Johnson said that has included letting police departments in towns where they have theaters, such as Fox Lake, Carpentersville, Elk Grove Village and St. …

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