?Fight club problem? likely was overblown

<p>When Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft talked about an active ?fight club? in the county during the Interagency Team meeting Sept. 11, he didn?t think his remarks would get quite the attention they did from statewide media outlets.<p>The problem is that law enforcement officials say they have no idea how often or how serious these fights are?or even if the fighting is still going on in the county.

Craft said he has heard only a little about the grappling.

?What we have been aware of are more minor wrestling incidents,? Craft said. ?I am not even sure if two guys wrestling can be considered illegal.?

What could be illegal is where the teenagers are meeting.

?We could have trespassing issues if they are in pastures or on private property,? he said.

Josh Whitwell, Marion police chief, agreed with Craft that he has heard some reports of aggressive encounters, but not enough to warrant the term ?fight club.?

Whitwell said he has heard several versions about these groups. Some of those accounts involved a local person meeting with out-of-town people to arrange the fights.

?Safety is a big concern (for me),? Whitwell said. ?Wrestling could be good or bad, depending on how far it goes.

?I can see going out with some buddies and wrestling, but what happens if someone gets hurt? Where are they?? he added.

Whitwell sees the activity as a double-edged sword.

?Boys will be boys,? he said.

But for Whitwell and other law enforcement officials, if someone gets hurt and needs medical attention, will the group be too afraid to get help?

?I am a proponent of boxing and wrestling,? Whitwell said, ?but it has to be in the right environment.?

Boxing can teach discipline and is a goal-setting sport, he said, but fighting in the middle of a field without spotters controlling the situation could become chaotic and dangerous.

Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning said it?s difficult to know if there?s a problem or not.

As for the legality of fighting, Kinning said, his office views this behavior as disorderly conduct when it occurs in parks and other locations.

?(The fights) won?t be tolerated, but we know very little or even if it?s still going on,? he said.

The few reports Kinning has heard involved kick boxing in Hillsboro?s park and a couple of incidents in Marion.

He said he has received no reports of injuries associated with these encounters.

?Still if someone has more information, they should come forward with it,? Kinning said.

Marion, Hillsboro and county law-enforcement officials said if these tap-outs, fight clubs or whatever young people are calling them, are still going on, they would like to see that aggression put to better use.

Whitwell said he would like to be able to see a boxing gym open, but it takes a lot of room, equipment and money.

?It would be in a controlled atmosphere with appropriate gear and safe,? he said.

Craft said he would like to see all that energy channeled in a more constructive way.

?I would like to see young people maybe paint an elderly person?s home or do something in other useful ways.?

Craft, Whitwell and Kinning don?t want to prevent kids from being kids, though.

?I think (the fighting) has somewhat been blown out of proportion,? he said.

Craft is concerned, though, that this kind of fighting can be dangerous.

?I don?t think it?s happening at the level we?ve seen in some areas, at least not to my knowledge,? he said.

Kinning said he also doesn?t think the fighting incidents are tied to bullying.

?From what we have heard, the fighting is mutual (among participants),? he said.

Because of safety concerns, anyone with knowledge about these fights is encouraged to call the Hillsboro Police Department at 620-947-3440, the Marion County Sheriff?s office at 620-382-2144 or the Marion Police Department at 620-382-2651.

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