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Omaha police and MECA address safety concerns at Gene Leahy Mall

Posted at 4:36 PM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 20:48:44-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — After a large crowd of teens broke out in a fight Saturday night, OPD and MECA are working on ways to de-escalate situations safely so park visitors still feel comfortable.

  • Omaha police say 150 minors were involved in a fight Saturday night that led to the Gene Leahy Mall being shut down for around 30 minutes.
  • MECA says safety is a top priority and they will evaluate the situation to learn how they can improve for next time.
  • Parkgoers we spoke to say they still feel safe at the park despite the fight.


The warmer days have brought more and more people to visit the Riverfront parks but recently some visitors have caused problems, jeopardizing the safety of others. Now Omaha Police and MECA are addressing the issues.

"The entirety of the riverfront is a new space so we're learning 100% along the way, so with any kind of incident that happens no matter how big or small it is, we evaluate the area, evaluate what our reaction is to it, evaluate how we can improve for the next time," said Katie Bassett, MECA’s Vice President of Parks.

A large fight on a Saturday night. Omaha police say 150 minors — teens and younger children — were involved. Officers used pepper balls to break it up and had to close the park for about thirty minutes.

The day after, parkgoers told me they still feel safe despite the fight.

"There seems to be people who are walking around either in uniform doing something in the park at all times and I feel like the responsiveness is pretty good," said parkgoer, Danielle Braggs.

"I feel like it's pretty safe. I mean anything can happen anywhere at any time but overall, it's really safe down here we feel comfortable,” said parkgoer, Miki Stanner.

And as more people visit The Riverfront as the weather warms up Omaha Police, MECA and community partners like Omaha 360 are increasing enforcement and collaborating on ways to de-escalate situations safely so people still feel comfortable.

"It's one of those moments for education if you can break them apart and get a guardian involved that's probably the best solution there," said Omaha Police Department Lt. Neal Bonacci.

Police say juveniles caught breaking the law will face consequences and remind parents that park security staff are not babysitters.

"We also want to encourage parents that if your kids are going to come down here, please don't leave them unattended or drop them off. If they're getting down here by other means, whether that be the bus system or they're just walking down here, that you know where they're at and to remind them to be on their best behavior," said Bonacci.

MECA says they have the right to close any of the Riverfront parks if safety of visitors is at risk. Everyone should also be aware that the park closes at 11 p.m. nightly, meaning those trespassing after hours may be arrested.