Local law-enforcement officials say fear should not get in the way of going to the movie theater in the wake of last week’s tragic shooting in Aurora, Colo.
Twelve people died and 58 were wounded in a shooting at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Police accuse James E. Holmes of carrying out the rampage.
“What happened in Colorado is tragic, but it was an isolated incident and it could have happened anywhere in the country — just, unfortunately, it happened there,” Nicholasville Police Department Cpl. Benjamin Rugg said. “It doesn’t mean that people need stay in their home. People are perfectly safe to come out and enjoy a movie.”
Rugg is also the coordinating supervisor for the security detail at the AmStar 14 theater in Brannon Crossing and said he wants movie patrons to know security has been beefed up.
“Our police presence deters a lot of possible incidents,” Rugg said. “There is also a security detail, which used to be just Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but since the shooting, the theater has recently requested seven-day-a-week security.”
The security detail is not the same as the police but is made up of off-duty Nicholasville police officers who are independently contracted to the theater.
“The security detail is plain-clothed officers with sidearms and handcuffs in accordance with the police department’s policy on private security employment,” Rugg said. “Also, though the officers are off duty, they allowed in their capacity to use a police cruiser as a deterrent for crime.”
There has also been an increase of on-duty patrol officers in the Brannon Crossing area, per guidelines handed down by the chief of police, Rugg said.
Rugg has been working for the theater for approximately five years. He also wrote the standard operating procedures for the theater, such as what the duties of the officers are and what to do in case of an emergency.
Rugg said most incidents at AmStar 14 are usually minor infractions of the law — alcohol intoxication, some theft and only one fight that he could remember.
He said that he and his security officers have also talked to the AmStar employees about what to do in crises or incidents.
“Our awareness has increased, but we have always had security on the weekends, and we have always remained very vigilant about our employees and about our guests’ safety,” general manager Kimberly Christy said. “We have always been on the lookout for suspicious things, and we work really closely with our local law enforcement.
“They’re here until the last show drops, and they’re here until everybody is out of the building.”
Christy said there is always a police presence at AmStar 14 until the last movie ends Monday morning; depending on its length, that could be late as 3 a.m.
Even at the earliest showings of “The Dark Knight Rises” at 11 a.m., there is a Nicholasville police car out front.
“Our guys and law enforcement do the rounds and check the parking lot and keep an eye near the podium where the crowds gather and everyone comes in,” she said.
Though patrons may not be able to see the increased security, what they will notice is that the policy of dressing up for a movie has gotten a little stricter.
Costumes at AmStar 14 have not been banned completely as they have at some other theaters, but the staff and security detail are taking a closer look at anyone dressed up who may be concealing something.
“Mostly, we kind of feel it’s OK for children to dress up at this time,” Christy said. “But if an adult came in, in a mask alone, I would personally ask them to take the mask off.”
Another noticeable difference was the removal of a trailer for the upcoming film “Gangster Squad,” which was playing in theaters before “The Dark Knight Rises.” The trailer depicts a theater shooting massacre.
Despite the changes and a bump in security, officials say it is still safe to go to the movies.
“Our heart goes out to the victims and families impacted by the terrible events that took place,” said Kendell Kelton, a representative for AmStar Cinemas. “This event reminds us to be ever so vigilant in all places of public assembly. But security is a top priority and we are monitoring everything so people can come and enjoy the movies.”