September 18th, 2014 | Sterling
It’s Not All Fun And Games At The County Fair
Residents in Oregon and Washington are calling for tighter rules and mandated background checks for county fair workers, following several incidents over the past couple of years. Carnivals and county fairs on the Northwest coast have been making headlines for everything from equipment failing because it wasn’t properly tested to carnival workers trying to lure and kidnap children. What should be a fun family night out filled with cotton candy and carnival games has the potential to be a parent’s worst nightmare and a hunting ground for sexual predators.
Last year, a fair worker was arrested for downloading and sharing child pornography. Dale Fager was employed with the carnival company for several months and worked at numerous county fairs along the West Coast. According to the employer, they conduct background checks on their employees and Fager’s came back clear. The only problem was that Fager provided a fake name and Social Security Number to prevent his employer from finding his lengthy arrest record and outstanding warrant for forgery charges in Indiana. Had the company conducted a Social Security Number trace, the results would have raised red flags as to the validity of the information provided by Fager.
That’s not the only case of a dangerous sexual deviant on the loose at a carnival. Just this summer, county fair worker Bryan McCann, approached a 9 year old girl and attempted to kidnap her. According to witnesses, McCann approached several young girls, asking them what time they were leaving and if they would like to go on some rides. Several children alerted their parents to his behavior. His employer claims that a background check was conducted, but since the carnival industry is not regulated there is no way to verify that one was actually performed. Additionally, even if a background check was done on McCann, there is no guarantee that it was thorough or based on reliable sources.
Needless to say, there is a glaring hole in the screening process for carnival workers. These individuals have access to children on fairgrounds and are responsible for their safety. With no standards governing county fair employers on how background checks are to be carried out, there is ample opportunity for a criminal – or even sex offender – to slip through the cracks.
Lawmakers have listened and plan to take action. Washington State Rep. Liz Pike says that she intends to introduce legislation in January that will require background checks on county fair workers and impose stiff penalties on anyone convicted of preying on children at these events.
Background checks on county fair workers should be regulated by the government. To prevent the hiring of criminals or sex offenders, employers should conduct a thorough criminal record check starting with a Social Security Number Trace. Other criminal record locator tools, such as the enhanced nationwide database search and victim notification database should also be used to produce a more thorough criminal record check. And finally, a sex offender registry search should be performed to help protect the children attending county fairs from dangerous predators.
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