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Developed by the Mesa Arizona Police Department, the Crime
 Free Hotel/Motel Program Turns Hotel Workers
 into Crime-fighters

By Rick Alm, The Kansas City Star, Mo.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Aug. 23, 2005 - Some Kansas City area hotel executives will get a crash course this week in thwarting criminal activity on their properties.

A copyrighted program developed by the Mesa, Ariz., police department a decade ago has spread across the country, resulting in partnerships between police and workers in several categories of businesses that tend to attract criminal activity -- notably hotels, apartments and self-service storage facilities.

"We think it works real well," said David Lewis-Jones of the Lenexa Police Department , which has been involved in the program since 2000.

Since then, reported crime incidents at the city's eight hotels has been stable, at around 120 a year, and is on pace for 101 this year, he said. The statistics show the greatest problem, by far, is drug activity, followed by theft and auto theft.

The Mesa program includes a four-hour classroom session that outlines fundamental facts about crime, how to spot some of its telltale signs, and how to discourage it through the use of better locks, outdoor lighting and other practical tips.

He said the key to the program, however, was the personal rapport that developed between patrol officers and property workers. In Lenexa, selected officers are assigned about a half-dozen properties that become their responsibility.

"The benchmark of the program is communication between the police department and managers of hotels and other properties," he said. "With those lines of communication open, we can tell them our problems, and they tell us theirs."

Other classroom sessions are aimed at rank-and-file workers, said North Kansas City community policing Officer Jason Silver. "It all starts at the front desk, turning away the bad people" who exhibit the earmarks of criminals -- such as those with local addresses or who pay in cash.

"The cleaning staff is the eyes and ears of the program," he added.

An introductory session for hotel employees is to be held Wednesday by the North Kansas City Police Department , and Silver said word-of-mouth publicity had attracted more than a dozen registrations.

"It shows the public is interested in keeping their properties crime free," he said. "More and more are starting to get involved."

Silver credited Pamela Moore, sales director at the North Kansas City American Inn , with the initial push for the program when she sought police advice to help improve the industry's and her hotel's public image.

"We had an incident in our hotel," Moore said, "and I asked what we can do to recognize criminal activity ... how we can tell criminals and our customers that we are not going to tolerate criminal activity.

"We are a very nice bunch of hotels," said Moore of the chain's four properties in the area. "We don't want the police at our hotels."

Kansas City Police Officer Chris Sicoli is a certified instructor in the Mesa program, which is used here at multifamily housing projects. He will be one of the instructors Wednesday at the American Inn.

Sicoli said Kansas City didn't have the staffing or the budget to routinely offer the training program to hotels and other business groups.

The investment, mostly in officers' time, is well worth it, he said. While police calls "are going up every year, we're seeing substantial decreases at our properties."


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Copyright (c) 2005, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

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