If you suspected a sexual crime had taken place at your business, would you know what to do? Having a response pattern in place to safely manage the threat is something every aquatics facility needs, says Richard Dangel, Ph.D., president/CEO of Praesidium Inc.
His Arlington, Texas-based firm specializes in helping recreational facilities minimize the risks associated with sexual offenses. Below is a six-step system developed by Dangel, which aquatics managers can use to train their employees:
1. Let the suspect know you’ve got your eye on them. If you believe a guest may be acting inappropriately, go up and introduce yourself to the person as a staff member. Ask the guest if you can be of assistance or answer any questions about the facility and its amenities.
This will spotlight the situation and alert the suspicious patron that he or she is being watched. After removing their anonymity, the suspect will be inclined to leave or at least cease whatever behavior is making other guests uncomfortable, Dangel says.
2. Identify what is of concern to the suspect. If the suspicious behavior continues, Dangel suggests letting suspects know specifically what you observed them doing that was considered inappropriate. For example, maybe you noticed them using a camera phone near a wading pool or bumping into children in the wave pool. Exposing the behavior helps eliminate the risk that it will continue in the future.
3. Explain why the conduct was inappropriate. Clearly inform suspects why their behavior is considered unsuitable. Tell them that their conduct is against the facility’s policy, or that they are loitering in an area reserved only for parents with children.
4. Give the suspicious guest specific instructions. Spell out for them how you expect to them conduct themselves and what the parameters of appropriate behavior are. Make sure they understand that if the misconduct continues, they’ll be asked to leave the swimming pool or waterpark.
5. Notify facility management immediately about the incident. By alerting a supervisor about the episode, management will be able to notify the rest of the staff about what to look for and record the incident. They can also decide if law enforcement or other authorities need to be contacted to handle the situation.
6. Get law enforcement assistance before trying to detain someone. For your own safety and the safety of others, do not try to apprehend or detain a suspected offender yourself. Get law enforcement or waterpark security involved if the threat is serious. Sex offenders are just as capable of violent behavior as any other criminal.