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A new fear for parents: security where teens work
By Jim Allen | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:41 PM

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Originally published Jan. 11, 1993

For suburban teenagers looking for extra cash, taking a part-time job often has been a practical choice.

For teens, the question may have been whether the money would be for college or a car. For parents, the question more likely was whether there would be enough time for homework and family activities.

But with the slayings of seven workers - including two high school students - at the Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in Palatine, another question could be asked: Is it worth the risk?

"I really don't want to work, after what's happened, at a fast-food place or anything," said Meghan Corman, a 15-year-old schoolmate of victim Michael Castro. Corman said she had been working at a restaurant but that now she doesn't want to return.

Standing nearby, her father, Tom, responded, "That's fine. - She did work for a while at a restaurant, but not a fast food place. And I was always concerned because, you know, she's my only daughter."

Ronald Powell, president of the 40,000-member United Food & Commercial Workers Local 881, said parents throughout the suburbs are likely to feel the same way. The tragedy in Palatine has shattered any feelings of security, he said.

"When I heard about that, talk about chills going up your spine," Powell said. "I think there's certainly going to be some apprehension, not only on the part of the teenagers, but also on the part of the parents, for at least a period of time," Powell predicted.

Meanwhile, police investigators said they could do little to reassure parents and teens.

Citing the delicacy of the investigation, Palatine police declined to say whether they had a suspect in custody or whether the grisly crime may have been committed by more than one gunman.

Palatine Deputy Police Chief Walt Gasior, at a Sunday afternoon news conference, declined to comment on such issues.

"I'm sensitive to their concerns, but it would be inappropriate at this stage of the investigation."

Although the killings prompted fears about teens returning to their jobs, there also were indications the tragedy could lead to changes in security procedures throughout the village.

Palatine Village President Rita Mullins announced that police would beef up patrols of local businesses.

And she said the Palatine Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a meeting between police and business officials to discuss security.

A chilling aspect of the case is that the murderer may have entered the Brown's restaurant through a back door that was left unlocked - a common practice at such restaurants.

Powell, whose union is the largest of its kind in the nation, noted that the majority of his members work in grocery stores, which have a history of taking precautions like locking back doors and keeping limited amounts of cash accessible.

"Workplace security is obviously something we like to see. It's certainly high on our list," Powell said.

In the aftermath of Friday's killings, the issue apparently is high on everyone's list.

In Arlington Heights, about five business owners called police over the weekend, asking for patrols at closing time, said police Sgt. Peter Kinsey.

"I had to explain to them that they all close at different hours, and we only have so many officers," Kinsey said.

But at the same time, restaurateurs with fears should consider taking steps like hiring private security officers, he said.