Rapid Response

by David Koenig, contributing writer
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Disneyland beefs up security following pair of hold-ups

Police aren't sure if it's the same two guys, the work of an established crime ring, or just some random bandit and a really good copycat. No matter who perpetrated two near-identical robberies of toll booths at Disneyland's Mickey & Friends parking structure on successive Tuesday afternoons, resort security is quietly working to make sure it doesn't happen again.

For starters, the incidents revealed that the park's network of hidden cameras don't work quite as advertised. Video cameras captured both September 19 and 26 hold-ups on tape, but the images were not sharp enough to identify the suspects or their vehicle's license plates. Police enlarged and enhanced the video, but critical details still were not clear. So, after the second robbery, they decided to release the tapes to the media, hoping someone familiar with the suspects, their cars, or the incidents would step forward.

Evidently, the public couldn't do any better with the fuzzy video clips. Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez said, "After the video was first released, we had a couple of phone leads, which detectives are following up on, but nothing new since."

Security's natural first step should be to install a surveillance system that can record more identifiable images. The officer who normally mans the cameras has been spotted lately working inside the toll booths, but what exactly he's working on remains unconfirmed.

In the meantime, park security is posting an officer at the toll stations, "to put the cast members in the toll booths at ease, is what they told us," said one guard.

Anaheim police are also making themselves more visible. "We placed a patrol car [on site] and we've had officers riding through there regularly," said Sgt. Martinez. "It's about elevating the presence."

Security also planted its "Sky Watch" mobile tower behind the tolls. An officer identified the contraption as "a security lookout tower that is mounted on a trailer that can be moved wherever we need it. They are used quite a bit in Florida, but we only have one here. We have had the tower for a little while now. They have parked it in the Downtown Disney parking lots on occasion. It rises over two stories high and is self-contained, meaning it has a generator, lights, spotlights, and flashers."

Unlike in the aftermath of 9-11, when Disneyland introduced protracted bag checks and other precautions, the new reactions do not seem to have inconvenienced too many guests. For one thing, there seem to be even more parking attendants on duty, so traffic should be moving even more quickly.

Disney is making the changes more for safety than financial considerations. Police did not reveal the amounts of money stolen, saying only that they weren't huge amounts. Said one officer: "I don't know the exact numbers, but I do know that the first robbery netted a few thousand [dollars] and the second only a few hundred."

Another Emergency Response

The Disneyland Fire Department has also acquired a new toy. In late September, a funny-looking boat showed up in the fire department's garage behind the Lincoln theater. One cast member described the vehicle as a "Jetski on steroids."

Actually, it's a Patrol Rescue Jet designed by Sonic Jet Performance, Inc. of Huntington Beach (for more information, see this flyer; PDF). The white, two-seater vehicle features pontoons, a water cannon on the front, fire extinguisher, siren, horn, strobe lights, and a large lightbar on the top.

Unlike traditional speedboats, the emergency vehicle features no propeller and can operate in extremely shallow water. It can pull right up to injured parties to safely load them from the rear. The "PRJ" can accommodate seven people under normal conditions or up to 10 in a pinch.

Eventually, the 16-foot-long craft will be stored behind the Rivers of America, near the Fantasmic! barges' drydock, for emergencies.

"Rumor has it that there was a boat fire on one of the lakes in Walt Disney World, and the response time to put it out was considered 'unacceptable' by corporate management," overheard one employee. Disneyland's new PRJ can reach 65 mph in seconds—though hopefully no one will be tempted to test that acceleration time on the compact Rivers of America.