An out-of-control crowd of teens storming the Park District of Forest Park Aquatic Center, 7501 Harrison St., on the evening on June 14 led the park district to ban non-residents who don’t have pool passes until further notice.
While the village and park district accounts disagree somewhat on crowd size and the scale of the damage, they agree on certain basic facts. The park district was alerted that someone sent an invitation to a pool party via the Snapchat messaging app, and a few hundred teens responded. The pool staff stopped letting people in once the pool reached safety capacity, but remaining teens kept trying to get in, jumping over the fencing and breaking through the entrance, leading the park district to call police.
In response to the incident, the park district stopped allowing non-residents who don’t have pool passes into the pool until further notice. Jackie Iovinelli, the district’s executive director, told the Review that this policy is in place to make it easier for pool staff to keep track of how many people are in the pool at any given time. The policy will hit the pool financially, since 75% of people who don’t use pool passes are non-residents, but she said that safety took priority.
According to Iovinelli, at around 12:30 p.m. on June 14 the park district was alerted that someone sent a Snapchat message inviting people to come to the Aquatic Center. Worried the crowds would exceed capacity and get out of control, park officials called the Forest Park police, who told them that officers patrolling the area were advised of the situation, and to call 911 if things got out of control. The pool staff was notified of the situation.
Iovinelli said that at 6:30 p.m., the pool reopened for an evening open swim. While she said large crowds weren’t unusual, especially on hot days, the pool reached capacity by about 7:05 p.m. and they again closed the entrance. At that point, 150 people were inside.
In response, the crowd charged through the front gate and jumped the fence on the east side of the center, going through the splash pad construction site. The police report of the incident stated “50 to 75 teens rushed the various apparatus” to get into the pool, while Iovinelli said that 100 people went through the gates and 150 people jumped the fence. The statement from Mayor Rory Hoskins, which was posted on the village’s Facebook page on June 15, said “about 40 to 50” teens rushed through the front gates and “about 60 kids climbed the rear fence and entered the pool.”
All accounts agree that a group of teens – the police report puts the number at “several hundred” – gathered by the front entrance and refused to leave. Forest Park police called Berwyn, Broadview, Maywood, Melrose Park, North Riverside, Oak Park and River Forest police departments, as well as the Cook County Sheriff, for additional manpower. The police officers spent the next 90 minutes clearing the area, with the police report mentioning that most of the young people “repeatedly refused requests to leave, made threats and antagonized officers on scene.”
Iovinelli said the teens who were in the pool refused to leave.
“They proceeded to threaten our lifeguards with ‘I will stab you when you leave’ and ‘I will shoot you dead in the head if you continue to speak,’” she said, adding that police officers helped to manage the situation.
Iovinelli said while there have been several instances of Snapchat pool party invitations, the park district has never seen anything of this scale. She said the district appreciated the police assistance in the matter.
While Hoskins said there was no property damage, Iovinelli said there was “damage to all the gates and entrance to the pool” as well as damage to the construction site. She said that most of the damage was fixed on June 15, but they were still reviewing the damage to the construction area as of June 16.
Iovinelli said people who pay for one-time admission are normally charged non-resident rate unless they can show an ID indicating they are residents. She said the district suspended non-resident one-time admission to help the staff keep better track of how many people are in the pool at the time.
Iovinelli said that the suspension is “indefinite until we feel there is not a threat to our staff or patrons.”
Both she and Hoskins said the police and the park district plan to discuss ways to better secure the park.
“Our goal is to always provide a safe place for our young staff to work, for our patrons to enjoy leisure time and to protect our amenities,” Iovinelli said. “We will continue to have conversations with our police department to only make us better.”
Hoskins said he was satisfied with the way the police handed the situation.
“Our command staff reported that the officers did great work in deescalating numerous situations, which could have gone much worse,” he said.