by MATTHEW KEMENY, The Patriot-News
Wednesday January 07, 2009
The wobbly video shows a group of adults mulling inside Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in Susquehanna Twp. Suddenly it pans left and captures a fight breaking out.
The 22-second clip, uploaded Sunday to YouTube, is the latest example of what police describe as a disturbing and bizarre crime trend: escalating violence among adults at a place designed for children's birthday parties.
Susquehanna Township police have been called to the restaurant on Union Deposit Road 12 times in the past year for reports of disorderly conduct, assault and theft. Those calls have resulted in 13 arrests, including six women -- five adults and a juvenile -- charged with disorderly conduct in a Saturday-night brawl.
In 2007, police responded to the restaurant 18 times for similar offenses.
"It's madness, absolute madness," Susquehanna Twp. Police Chief Robert A. Martin said.
Martin said he believes much of the violence stems from ongoing disputes among people who bump into each other in the restaurant. "They see each other at Chuck E. Cheese, and before you know it an argument turns into something physical."
The assaults also could be attributed to separated or divorced parents who attend a child's birthday party, he said. Such was the case in an April 4 incident, when police accused a man of slapping his estranged wife in the head at their child's party.
The violence at Chuck E. Cheese's isn't isolated to the Susquehanna Township restaurant. Last month, the Wall Street Journal published an article about a growing number of adult melees at locations in Brookfield, Wisc.; Topeka, Kan.; Toledo, Ohio; and Flint, Mich.
The number of calls at the Susquehanna Township location increased from 11 in 2005 and nine in 2006, Martin said. In late March, police broke up a fight involving 20 people.
Other Chuck E .Cheese restaurants in central Pennsylvania have had similar problems.
At the Manheim Twp. restaurant in Lancaster County, a man was arrested March 20 after police said he ran around the restaurant spitting and yelling he had hepatitis C. A week earlier, a 17-year-old Warwick Twp. girl was walking to her car in the parking lot when a man walked up behind her, grabbed her and tried to drag her away, police said. No one has been arrested in that incident.
A call to CEC Entertainment, Inc., which runs Chuck E. Cheese, was referred to the company's legal department in Irvine, Texas. Messages left Tuesday morning and afternoon were not returned.
In April, a company spokeswoman told The Patriot-News all the restaurants have security cameras to help ensure peace of mind for customers and the restaurants' workers who dress as the Chuck E. Cheese mouse mascot.
"As in our other urban, high-density locations, we rely on the local authorities and their advice to control situations such as the ones we have experienced in Harrisburg," spokeswoman Brenda Holloway said.
Incidents reported by police at the Susquehanna Township Chuck E Cheese in the past year:Jan. 19, 2007: Theft of cell phone Feb. 16: Domestic dispute Feb. 19: Domestic assault; one arrested Feb. 26: Assault March 22: Disorderly conduct; one arrested March 29: Disorderly conduct; two arrested April 2: Disorderly conduct April 4: Domestic assault; one arrested May 10: Disorderly conduct; one arrested Sept. 9: Theft, assault. Oct. 3: Domestic assault, simple assault; one arrested Jan. 3: Disorderly conduct; six arrested.