By Jessica Peralta
Members of the Garden Grove Police Department’s Resort Services Unit understand their responsibilities go far beyond basic police work. There’s a certain customer service element that goes along with the job.
“It’s a guest service with a law enforcement foundation,” says Master Reserve Officer Mike Feher, who worked on the unit as a full-time officer from 2003 to 2010 before retiring and returning to the unit as a reserve.
The Resort Unit was founded in 2001 in order to help revitalize the resort area, located in the most northern part of the city and adjacent to Anaheim’s resort area. The city brought in new hotels to replace the dilapidated buildings, and the Resort Unit worked to patrol the area and reduce crime.
The plan worked.
Sometimes referred to as “Anaheim South,” according to Feher, the area is now nationally recognized as a tourist destination and consists of 10 hotels and five restaurants, with more on the way. But that designation takes a lot of relationship-building and patrol on the side of the three-person Resort Unit.
A large part of the work, says Feher, is understanding who the crime victims are. For example, he recalled a man from Kansas, his wife and kids, who spent almost $1,000 for this family trip to Disneyland and then his car was broken into. The family was understandably upset.
So Feher suggested that the wife and kids take the shuttle to Disneyland while the husband finished up with the police report. The unit worked to complete the report-taking quickly so they could get the husband to Disneyland in an hour rather than a couple of hours – and they drove him there. Feher says these kinds of guest services are important because when that family returned home, they would remember the trip more positively and perhaps return again or recommend the area to friends.
“We lessened that bad experience by trying to connect as much as we could … and that is a major part of this job,” Feher says.
Officer George Figueredo, who works full time on the Resort Services Unit, says high visibility and regular contact with hotel and restaurant front desk managers are key to the job. He keeps them up-to-date on crime trends and other relevant information for the area to keep them aware of any potential criminal activity. He has such strong relationships with his resort contacts that he gets regular daily calls from them regarding criminal activity or questions they may have.
“Basically my goal is to create an environment that is safe to our tourists and guests and prevents crime from occurring,” he says. “There’s a lot more customer service in this position than there is in a traditional police officer role.”
And those relationships do come in handy in dealing with criminal activity. For instance, one of the hotels was having issues with several homeless men and women coming into the hotel and eating the buffet food. Figueredo told the hotel staff to call him when it happened. He started visiting regularly and spoke with the transients at the buffet. The activity stopped.
“You have to be more approachable,” Figueredo says of what it takes to work the unit.
Sgt. Charlie Loffler, who supervises the unit, says they’ll also work with other departments (for surveillance, for example) and resort security as needed as certain crime trends develop. Recently such a need arose for a series of car thefts across the county where SUVs with third-row seats were being stolen.
“They hit the places where you’re going to have a family car with a third-row seat,” Loffler says.
The unit also offers training and more in-depth education for the sake of crime prevention. It recently conducted training for hotel general managers, directors of operations and security guards regarding how to identify prostitution tactics, commercial vs. street prostitution, prostitution websites, etc. in order to prepare for the upcoming large-convention season, which tends to attraction prostitution to the area.
“They’re like our eyes and ears,” says Loffler of the resort staff. “We’re helping them help themselves.”
This article was provided to the OC Tribune by Behind the Badge. For more on area law enforcement news and issues, go to http://www.behindthebadgeOC.com .
Categories: Garden Grove