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Suffolk County Executive Signs New Law After Young Girls Were Groped At Water Park

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - The Suffolk County executive is taking steps to make Long Island's amusement parks safer.

On Monday, Steve Bellone signed legislation designed to boost enforcement of criminal complaints made at amusement and water parks.

It all stems from an incident over the summer at the Splish Splash water park in Suffolk County.

In that incident, four young girls were groped by men in one of the public pools at the park. The men got away, even though there was surveillance video and pictures of them, CBSN New York's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

splish splash suspects
Police have released photos of eight men and a woman wanted for questioning after parents of summer campers complained their daughters were groped. (Credit: Suffolk County Police Department)

At the time of the incident, Splish Splash was not required to call police about the incident, and they did not.

The new legislation requires amusement parks and water parks to immediately notify police if there's a crime committed on their grounds.

"The incident was not immediately reported to law enforcement. As a parent of two young daughters, I can not imagine what it must have felt like for these children to feel helpless and humiliated in a place where the last thing you should be thinking about should be looking over your shoulder," Bellone said. "We have an obligation to protect our kids and to make sure that there are protocols in place so that these incidents are dealt with in a timely matter."

"There's no longer a question of what should be done or who should do it, that's the key," said Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland.  "There's no longer a question - 911 has to be called."

The new law legislates penalties if a crime is not reported to police: $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for subsequent violations. It only applies to water parks and amusement parks, not other places where children might gather like movie theaters or indoor play spaces. Berland says she's looking into expanding the law.

At the time of the incident, Splish Splash said it was abiding with the wishes of the YMCA camp counselor who brought the girls to the park. Splish Splash said the counselor did not approve a call to 911, and they say they welcome a clear law.

"Splish Splash complies with all applicable laws and regulations. We are absolutely supportive of any new legislation which may improve guest safety and security at theme parks," said Mike Bengtson, general manager of Splish Splash.

The law goes into effect in 90 days. It's the first of its kind in the state.



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