The new Kennywood security policy

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Before the Sept. 2022 shooting at Kennywood Amusement Park in West Mifflin, park attendees were required to pass through metal detectors and open their bags for inspection by park security. I watched this system of security develop over childhood summers spent going to Kennywood — it used to be that you could just walk in with a short nod at a cop who was pacing between ticket booths.

Now, as the park opens for the 2023 summer season, there is a heavier focus on security measures to prevent more violence. Most of the changes are reflected simply in an increased presence of security personnel at the park, but a few other things are being done, like taking down trees that block sight from the park to the road and decreasing the number and size of bags that are allowed in. Response protocols have been improved to avoid the chaotic and harmful mass exodus that occurred during the shooting.

An altercation between two young teenagers escalated to shooting in which two 15-year olds and a 39-year old were wounded. The obvious changes that could be made include checking that weapons aren’t being brought into the park and requiring that minors be accompanied by adults. The thing is that Kennywood was already doing both of those things when the shooting happened. The gun was purportedly slipped through a gate at the periphery of the park, which arguably should have been secured. But to what extent can we hold Kennywood security accountable for what happened?

What comes to mind for me when I think about this is the time that two people were shot by a 17-year old in the Monroeville Mall Macy’s in 2015. Or when a 20-year old was killed at the same mall in 2020, after a policy was implemented that required minors to be accompanied later in the day.

Police have attributed the altercation that led to the shooting to a “feud” happening among teenagers in the Mon Valley, which is south of West Mifflin. The “feud” is actually a string of 55 shootings (yes, 55) occurring in Duquesne, Homewood, and the Mon Valley over three or four months after an initial shooting at a graduation party on June 1, 2022. In one of these instances, a 14-year old was killed. If the gun violence issue among young people in these communities is so large that the Pittsburgh police or community justice organizations failed to solve it after 55 instances in three months, how was Kennywood security going to solve it?

When I was first talking about writing this article, I nearly decided not to write it, because I thought I would just end up saying what I’ve said in Forum a million times before. Yes, of course the shooting at Kennywood was terrible and tragic and had real impacts on real people, but please don’t be surprised or cut funding for trips there because you are under the impression that the entire rest of Pittsburgh is the same crime-free utopia that we live in at CMU. There are very very few neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that are even remotely similar to North Oakland/Squirrel Hill North, and very very many neighborhoods struggle every single day with gun violence. Instead of isolating yourself from these incidents because they do not conform with your unrepresentative idea of what Pittsburgh is, get involved and learn about what is actually happening. Go visit Kennywood, and its home in West Mifflin. Did you know that there’s a high school right behind Kennywood? And a Giant Eagle where people get their groceries every day? Learn about how gun violence is impacting residents and how you can get involved in local activism instead of avoidance.