The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced a partnership with hotels across the city Friday aimed at improving safety and lowering crime.
The initiative, called the Tourism Industry and Public Safety Alliance (TIPSA), was created in collaboration with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Northeast Chapter (FRLA), Visit Jacksonville and District 11 City Councilman Danny Becton.
“This will not only allow crime to not flourish, instead it will also result in making Jacksonville and Northeast Florida the safest place for tourists to visit and enjoy what we have to offer,” Becton said.
Officials said the the program will consist of three main components:
- Creating basic safety standards for all hotels to follow.
- A direct email account for hotel owners and general managers to contact JSO and report suspicious activities.
- A WhatsApp group for the owners and general managers to communicate with one another about potential crimes.
“Currently, we typically use the non-emergency line the most,” said Carrie Gould, the assistant general manager of Four Points by Sheraton Baymeadows. “And that is typically a slower reaction time because it's not an emergency and sometimes they’re spread thin. So when we call it could be a little while down the road for reaction.”
Gould said before the program was established that responses from JSO could potentially take a few days.
“With this TIPSA program, I have a direct line to two officers’ personal devices through the app,” Gould said.
The program won’t add extra responsibilities to hotel employees, as only upper management will be able to access the communication group among hotels.
JSO officers said a wide range of crimes happen at hotels; including car theft, petty crime and sex trafficking. The crimes can be hard to track when hotel patrons don’t show identification or pay fully in cash.
“Research has shown that [crime is] happening everywhere,” said Paul Restivo, an assistant chief with JSO. “It doesn't matter what side of town, what type of hotel that you have, there’s issues going on at all of these hotels. It doesn't matter if it's a cheaper hotel or a more expensive hotel.”
Councilman Becton said he’s had discussions with hotel management about a program like TIPSA since 2018.
“Sometimes just making that phone call and not knowing who to call or who to talk to, it's just such a hurdle
that we say, ‘you know what, I'll let it go,’” Becton said, adding the program will require no additional funding.
According to the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, around 30 hotels have already signed up to work with the program.
Now Becton wants every hotel in the city involved.
“Incentives could be a placard for the hotel,” Becton said. “Hotel windows that say ‘you are TIPSA certified, you're part of the program.’
Becton believes the certification will encourage other hotels to join in over time.
“As we grow this network, it will continue to improve and the footprint of our reach will expand,” Becton said.
Interested hotels in the city can reach out to FRLA to join in on the program.