Just a few simple precautions could mean the difference between being safe and speaking with the cops this holiday season.
People tend to take advantage of others during the holidays, said Ryan Bender, the front desk manager at Quality Inn, so it’s important to be as safe and protected as possible to prevent becoming a victim.
“We’re in a pretty safe spot,” Bender said of the Quality Inn, located at 2139 N. Marine Blvd., but that doesn’t mean guests shouldn’t lock up their jewelry and expensive gifts bought for loved ones.
And just because a patrol car is seen in front of a hotel doesn’t mean a crime has been committed. The Jacksonville Police Department is preventing crime by showing a presence at the 28 hotels in the city.
Calls – and arrests – are higher at Jacksonville hotels now because hotel staff are working with law enforcement and reporting suspicious activity, according to Jacksonville Police Department Media Liaison Beth Purcell.
Hotels in Jacksonville now average two-to-three calls to the police department each month, Purcell said.
The police department practices proactive policing by patrolling inside and outside hotels within the city as a way to deter criminal activity, according to Chief Mike Yaniero.
“Our goal is to work with the owners (and) operators to create safe environments for both our citizens and visitors,” Yaniero said.
That partnership is helpful during the holiday season when people travel to the Jacksonville area to visit their families.
Being in a hotel for the holidays means being vigilant and responsible when it comes to keeping yourself and the expensive or cherished items with you safe, Bender said.
Before leaving a vehicle and heading into the hotel for the night, Bender said to move valuables out of sight. Don’t keep them in the backseat where others can clearly see through the windows; instead lock them in the trunk or a glove compartment – or better yet, bring them inside the room with you.
Especially firearms, Bender continued. It’s a dangerous item to potentially fall in the wrong hands and Bender suggested bringing all firearms into the hotel room.
Above all else, “always lock your car doors,” Bender said.
When an officer is called to a hotel for criminal activity, it often falls into the following categories: prostitution, drugs, fraud, conspiracy, assaults, soliciting and contributing to the delinquency of minors, according to Yaniero. Officers also make calls for noise complaints, trespassing and to address disturbances.
The department has officers patrol the hotel areas in order to deter criminal activity from the area, Yaniero continued.
“Just like with anything else ... be aware of your surroundings,” Bender said.
Parking in well-lit areas and being cautious makes safety a priority, but there are times when criminal activity at hotels happens and Bender asked if guests see something, they say something.
If you smell marijuana in the hallway while passing someone’s room or see a number of men coming in and out of a room frequently, report it to the front desk of the hotel, Bender said.
Never approach someone yourself to attempt to handle a problem, Bender added. The Jacksonville Police Department does a good job with hotels, he said, and they and hotel staff can handle any problems that may arise.
“If you see something out of the ordinary, just bring it up to the front desk and we can take care of it,” Bender said.