Theme Park Trespassing

20th January 2020

The Hot Topic – Influencing Crime: How to Stop an Internet Craze of Trespassing?

July 2017; Youtuber and social influencer Ally Law broke into the Surrey based theme park, Thorpe Park, and climbed their tallest rollercoaster Stealth in order to take a selfie at its highest point. This seemingly innocent act could’ve caused highly serious ramifications for the park in question, such as property closures, decreasing number of visitors and ultimately loss of income.

This is just one of the many incidents that have come to light during this urban explorer era. Earlier in 2016 two teenagers were charged with trespassing after breaking into an abandoned amusement park. Whilst another incident resulted in the emergency services being called after three boys were recovered from a city sewer after getting stuck down there. And the list goes on…

Ally Law who has over 2 million subscribers, is just one out of thousands of social influencers encouraging the new craze labelled ‘urban exploring’ or ‘urbex’. The concept being to break in or gain access illegally into commercial premises, active or abandoned amusement parks or areas not open to the public, in order to film or photograph the evidence.

This trend has hit the internet hard, feeding the curiosity of young adults and teenagers. Research conducted uncovered around 40 websites just in the UK alone were dedicated to this fad. Whilst searching the term ‘urbex’ on Youtube brought up around 77,000 results with tens of millions of views. Clearly it isn’t illegal to watch these videos that are posted online, but it is apparent they are the catalyst surging the rise of urban explorers.

In the January of 2017, Ally Law was caught breaking and entering into the Big Brother House whilst they were live on air causing fears of a terrorist incident. This act found him guilty of aggravated trespassing.

In response to this charge Merlin Entertainments, who own Thorpe Park and others around the UK, obtained a High Court Injunction in order to deter unauthorised access onto their premises. Whilst abandoned amusement parks don’t have the luxury of a High Court Injunction, just a rusty fence line that time forgot. Does this seem like the appropriate level of security for such a dangerous place? From a security prevention point, it’s a reactive approach to the issue; dealing with the offenders once they have offended.

When reading the Health & Safety Executive’s ‘Fairgrounds and amusement parks: Guidance on safe practice’, the standards for security fencing is vague, with very little specification for height or security.

“If the barrier protects an edge from which somebody could be injured if they fell, the barrier should comply with relevant standards and should be designed both to prevent people from becoming trapped in or falling through them and to discourage attempts to climb, eg. by using vertical rails… Keep access points between barriers to the minimum size and number needed.”

The Hot Topic asks the question; with the rise in popularity for urban exploration, should there be a universal standard that amusement parks, active and abandoned, should adhere to? Could an improved security fencing standard stop trespassers in their tracks with an effective first line of defence?