Urban exploring can be exciting, dangerous…and illegal!
Witth so many lawful places to explore…is it worth the risk?
Urban exploration is the act of exploring manmade structures. Typically this activity focuses on abandoned ruins and hidden components of the manmade environment (like sewer tunnels beneath a city). While there are social groups and websites dedicated to that kind of activity, it’s not without controversy: usually urban exploring involves trespassing – the act of knowingly entering another person’s property without permission in a manner that amounts to a crime. When incidents of trespassing are prosecuted, they can result in hefty fines and or jail time for the person that is charged.
There may be a certain thrill one gets from exploring abandoned malls, hotels and even amusement parks. It can seem like a victimless crime since no one is getting hurt. Given that many of the structures being explored aren’t in use and seem to have not had anyone using them for years, it can also be a surprise for younger people to discover that it’s not just spooky and cool: it’s a place they’re legally prohibited from being. That’s how people often end up in trouble for this activity.
As one guide to urban exploring online warns though, people need to know about the places they’re going. It explains, “You can be arrested while urban exploring, and the jail time can range from only a one-night stay to well over a few years. Sometimes urban explorers that believe they are above the basic laws will do more than just urban explore a property, usually leading to several charges being brought against them.”
For many urban explorers, they may think that buildings are completely abandoned but have no proof that they are. If the building does in fact have an owner, and they decide to pursue further actions by calling the police and pressing charges for trespassing, there is nothing you could do about it. While the chances seem low, this happens all the time – enough that we were able to gather more than a few somewhat notorious examples of it happening:
In 2014, a famous urban explorer who uses the pseudonym Seph Lawless fought trespassing charges after being arrested in Cleveland. Seph Lawless has made a career out of sneaking into abandoned buildings and taking photos.This man photographer recently sold $60,000 in self published books and just finished his most recent project Black Friday – a collection of photographs from Seph’s adventures into abandoned malls throughout the midwest. He was interviewed on FOX news about his recent project and immediately following the interview, he was arrested for criminal trespassing.
Seph Lawless tried to argue that his activities were a victim-less and witness-less crime in an attempt to get the case thrown out of court. A group of Cleveland detectives however had combed through thousands of his private online communications. They found clues that linked Seph to countless crimes involving trespassing. After Seph was arrested, he was released on a $500 bond and his sentencing was reduced to a first class misdemeanor which is a lot better than a felony that he could’ve easily have gotten.
At the beginning of our COVID-19 lockdown in April of 2020, a 42 year old Richard Mcguire was arrested after he sailed to the Disney-owned island in Orlando and began recording YouTube videos documenting his experience. McGuire was caught on a Disney security camera, which prompted a dozen deputies to swarm the island to find him. When they were unable to locate him, they returned to the mainland, waited for Mcguire to leave the island and then arrested him. Disney has issued a lifetime ban to McGuire for his trip and he has been charged with trespassing and is facing up to a year in jail.
Urban exploring may seem like an interesting new trend that allows people to explore their surroundings, but it is just dangerous, and generally, it’s not worth the criminal consequences of getting caught. Trespassing is a serious offense and it is not worth the risk of being arrested/charged just to look at an abandoned building.
It is best to not become involved in activities that will put you at risk for jail times or banishment. Ultimately, what you decide to do is up to you, but before you jump into your next adventure, just ask yourself if going into older buildings and abandoned properties is really going to be worth the criminal penalties you’ll face if you get caught, let alone the consequences you may end up facing at home.
Be sure to provide full explanations for each of your answers. For more details, you can read the articles this piece was sourced from here:
Contributed by: Breanna Rizo
Edited by: Mike Kamer