BLAMING SKATELAND for Monday night's high-speed car crash into a Carney bar would be unfair. But mere mention of the roller rink in the Loch Raven-Baynesville community produces groans from residents and business owners, and with good reason.
Skateland needs to review its security policies, and tighten where necessary to help prevent these kinds of problems.
For years, Skateland has attracted packs of teen-agers to its Friday night public skating sessions. Youths up to age 19 can skate until about 12:30 a.m. After closing, they flood the parking lot and nearby streets. If allowed, some of them will loiter, fight, vandalize and shoplift as they wait for buses for the return trip to the city.
After several major disturbances five years ago, Skateland began hiring off-duty, uniformed police to provide security inside and outside the rink on Friday night. The MTA also rescheduled service so buses were waiting when the rink closed its doors. Residents thought Skateland and the county police had this youthful rowdiness under control.
A private party, with its own security, had taken over the rink Monday night. Once Skateland realized the party had attracted a large, boisterous crowd, police were notified. By the time police arrived, a commotion was stirring in the parking lot. Police believe youths driving a stolen car panicked, thinking the police were there to catch them. They sped off, and after a chase, slammed into the Firehouse Tavern in Carney, injuring 19 people.
Experience shows that off-duty police officers do the best job of keeping the peace -- something Skateland should have known. Their presence minimizes trouble inside the rink and prevents commotion outside. Youths should be able to congregate at Skateland, but a strong police presence will make it a much better neighbor.