Walt Disney World is a wonderful place full of amazing people who dedicate their time to ensuring your vacation is as magical as possible. Cast Members will typically do everything in their power to solve problems and add that extra sprinkle of pixie dust to your trip. Disney has done a fantastic job of transporting visitors to an extraordinary place that feels safe from the reality of life. This is a big reason Disney fans tend to flock toward the park whenever it’s time for a vacation. It seems as though nothing bad could happen!
We call this belief the ‘Disney bubble‘. It’s the idea that once you drive through those welcome signs, you’re leaving the real world behind. In the minds of many Guests, this includes stressors such as work issues, the mundane trot of daily life, and even crime. Sadly, although Disney does an amazing job at securing their Guests and offering a very safe environment, the real world lurks its dirty head and reminds us that a Disney bubble doesn’t really exist.
There’s so much to see and do that it’s easy to be distracted by potentially dangerous situations. The reality is that there are some employees and Guests at Walt Disney World (or any theme park) who do present danger. This has been the point of many who have paid close attention to news of late surrounding the Disney Parks in Florida. Over the span of a few weeks, there have been multiple arrests made by law enforcement involving Disney employees, some of which are related to child pornography stings and voyeurism. These individuals are innocent until proven guilty, but this is far from the first time Cast Members have been involved in crimes as serious as these.
The Harsh Reality of Crime in Florida
In March 2022, four Disney employees were arrested in Florida related to human trafficking and child predator sting, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Six months later, a similar bust took place, which saw 160 individuals arrested, one of whom was a Disney employee.
More recently, similar arrests were made in the same county in cases involving child pornography. There were eight arrests in total, and one of those arrested was a Disney worker. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called the bust “horrific.” As if those arrests weren’t enough, a former Disney employee who had been arrested and was out on bond after being accused of taking up-skirt photos of women was arrested for the same behavior again. It’s easy to chalk these up as isolated incidents. In terms of inappropriate things happening on Disney property, they certainly are. However, in terms of these incidences taking place in the states of Florida and California overall, they are not isolated events.
California and Florida are two of the highest at-risk states in the country for human trafficking. This is an issue we don’t often consider when going to Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort, but perhaps we should. It’s a real issue that exists in these states, and criminals are often drawn to California and Florida for the same reasons we are: they have huge tourism draws. Outside of the Disney bubble, there are dangerous things happening, and it is definitely something to be aware of.
However, Orlando, given its sizeable population, is a relatively safe place. It ranks as the eighth most dangerous city in Florida, but these numbers are reflective of bad areas that tourists typically don’t visit. The violent crime rate in Orlando is 8.28 per 1,000 residents. Compared to Lake City, Florida, where the violent crime rate is 68 per 1,000 residents, Orlando is safer. However, the further south you travel, the more prevalent cases of human trafficking become.
So, Just How Safe is Walt Disney World?
This should come as little surprise, but Walt Disney World is incredibly safe! Even with the news of former Cast Members participating in terrible crimes and the dangers presented across the state of Florida, Disney goes to great lengths to ensure your safety on their property. For starters, there is security everywhere at Walt Disney World. Even dressed-down (undercover) security exists all over the parks. These individuals, including your typical security, are well-trained and prepared to protect Guests in the event of an occurrence. Another threat that hangs in the back of a lot of minds when at a Disney Park is the reality of potential terrorism.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland were open and full on September 11, 2001. Upon understanding the situation, Cast Members sprang into action and helped empty the parks quickly and safely. How were they able to accomplish this on a day when terror struck a nation? Training is the short answer. I’m convinced that with the support of local emergency services, Disney could handle just about anything the world throws at its bubble. Honestly, we probably are mostly unaware of the lengths they go to ensure violent crime is not a prevalent issue on their property. But I’ll say this, if Disney is willing to lifetime ban someone for selling ears, they’ll absolutely do it if they pose a threat to security. That should make you feel safe enough.
Members of our Security teams at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort “took over” our Twitter accounts to give fans a peek inside the parks from their perspective. Check out their adventure on the Disney Parks Blog! #DisneyCastLife #DisneyMagicMoments ✨
— Walt Disney World (@WaltDisneyWorld) May 9, 2020
What Does the Public Think?
The internet is ablaze with differing opinions related to visiting Disney Parks and their relative safety. Much of this content is politically driven, so we’ll allow you to do your own research and make your own assumptions. Most people, however, still understand that even though they are vacationing at the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ or ‘Most Magical Place on Earth,’ the world is still the world, and bad things could happen. This doesn’t have to be as serious as human trafficking. There are plenty of instances of shocking injuries and accidental deaths occurring on Disney property. Of course, most of these are not violent crimes, but the risk is never zero (as the kids like to say).
There are some who still don’t quite grasp the concept that Disney cannot and will not be able to control everything that happens to them. Understanding that things go wrong and bad things are an everyday part of life will not only help you to enjoy your vacation, but it’ll also help lower your risk of becoming a victim. There’s zero harm in taking your security seriously as long as you approach it the right way.
So the next time you’re in the parks, if something feels off, let someone know. Relax and enjoy yourself, but if you’re traveling to other parts of the state, do some homework and make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. Chances are nothing terrible will happen, but if it does, you’ll be prepared.