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Tourist Unit’s Goal: Keep Anaheim America’s Safest City to Visit

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Anaheim is home to the biggest convention center on the west coast and Disneyland – one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations.

The TOP Team: Sgt. Tim Schmidt, Det. Rebecca Gershenoff, Det. Rafael Martins and Det. Dave Wiggins.

“Tourism is big business here,” says Anaheim Police Det. Dave Wiggins.

More than 45 million people visit the city every year, and they spend enough on hotel rooms to generate $83.5 million in bed tax revenue alone.

With all those visitors and dollars at stake, there’s significant pressure to maintain and enhance Anaheim’s reputation as a safe place to vacation and host conventions.

Enter the Tourist-Oriented Policing unit. The team, which includes Sgt. Tim Schmidt, Wiggins and Dets. Rebecca Gershenoff and Rafael Martins, works with hotel managers, resort operators and other stakeholders to prevent and solve crime.

The results?

The TOP team is a national model honored by prestigious university criminal justice programs. The FBI recently reported that Anaheim is America’s safest city to visit (with 250,000-500,000 residents).  And that’s not all.

“This program has provided us with a great sales tool in our convention and leisure marketing efforts promoting the Anaheim area,” said Charles Ahlers, president, Anaheim-Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

To read the rest of an interview with members of the TOP team, click here.

And the Winner Is…

ANAHEIM – The Chula Vista Police Department on Wednesday won the Herman Goldstein Award for excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing for a multi-year effort to clean up the city’s crime-ridden motels.

Chula Vista Winners

Goldstein winners Karin Schmerler, Don Hunter and David Eisenberg with APD Chief John Welter

But CVPD wasn’t the only winner at the 20th annual International Problem-Oriented Policing Conference at the Disneyland Hotel. Dozens of Anaheim police officers and executives made important connections and heard the latest in crime-solving theory from top law enforcement officials and academics.

The three-day conference ended with a short ceremony honoring the top examples of creative police problem solving. APD was a finalist in 2007 for its effort to solve community issues at “The Boogie!” nightclub.

This year’s finalists included police agencies from as far away as England. One project involved the elimination of an open-air drug market in New York; another was the reduction of vehicle thefts in Winnipeg, Canada.

Herman Goldstein, the University of Wisconsin professor for whom the award is named, said each finalist demonstrated the effectiveness of combining in-depth data analysis with intelligent problem-solving techniques.

“It is very uplifting to see this body of work, and I am very proud of what each of you have accomplished,” he said.

The effort to clean up Chula Vista’s motels began in 2003. At the time, the city’s motels were the settings for the majority of drug sales and assaults in the city.

Years of crime and data analysis, research and working with motel owners led to a new permit-to-operate ordinance that resulted in remarkable improvements.

Calls for police service dropped by 45 percent; drugs arrests dipped by 40 percent and overall motel crime plummeted by 68 percent.

The department shares its story on its Web site – and has authored a Problem-Oriented Policing guide titled “Disorder at Budget Motels.”

To Discourage Crime at Major Events ‘Show All Your Resources’

Some big cities discourage heavy police visibility at major events.

Not Anaheim.

Guests at baseball and hockey playoff games, major concerts, mixed-martial arts competitions and week-long conventions will see officers on horseback, in motorized carts, wearing SWAT gear and walking with police dogs.

Mounted Patrol

APD believes high visibility at major events deters crime. Click on the photo to read a recent OC Register story about its crime prevention efforts.

“We bring out all our bells and whistles,” said Anaheim Police Sgt. Tim Schmidt, presenting Tuesday at the 20th annual International Problem-Oriented Policing Conference at Disneyland Hotel.

He advised about 100 police officials from around the globe “to show all your resources” at major events.  “(Bad guys) are going to show up, see it and think, ‘Man, there are lot of cops here.’

Schmidt oversees Anaheim PD’s Tourism Oriented Policing (TOP) team – one of few visitor-focused units in the nation. The TOP team is dedicated to working with hotel owners, visitors bureaus, resorts and others to minimize safety and security issues.

The team is one reason Anaheim is the FBI’s safest city to visit among 35 U.S. cities with 250,000-300,000 residents.

Providing a safe environment in an area visited by millions can be challenging, noted APD Det. Dave Wiggins. Each day, the complexion of the area changes.

In January, the medical design industry held a conference at the Anaheim Convention Center. The next week it was an arts and crafts conference. Then, the international music products industry came to town.

“Can we police all three of these groups the same way?” he asked. “Each one wants a different style.”

APD has a substation at Downtown Disney. The team meets monthly with hotel owners. It routinely shares crime information with hotels and attractions through a Crime Alert Network. Its focus is long-term.

Some cities want “to keep security out of view,” he said. “We use it as a marketing tool.”


Also Tuesday, University of Wisconsin professor Herman Goldstein, credited for developing the Problem-Oriented Policing model 30 years ago, discussed the approach’s benefits with several law enforcement officials.

Goldstein Welter

Chief Welter and Problem-Oriented Policing innovator Herman Goldstein

“If you use creative measures to solve problems, more people are going to respect you,” he said.

As an example, he discussed a recent case of appliance thefts from new homes in South Carolina.

Instead of relying on traditional detective methods to apprehend the thieves, police identified the root cause; builders were installing appliances before the homes were occupied.

Police worked with builders to delay installation. The problem was solved.

A more recent example where problem-oriented techniques should be applied, he said, involves the growing issue of texting while driving.

“What’s the solution?” he asked. “Passing a statute?”

A better solution, he suggested, would be to work with cell phone technologists to develop software that disables texting while in a car.

He acknowledged that it can be challenging to overcome traditional ways of thinking in police departments.

His advice: When an officer or officers work with the community to solve problems, “publicize it and reward them.”

Public Safety Involves More Than Having Officers Respond to Crime, Chief Says

More than 500 police experts from around the globe gathered Monday at the Disneyland Hotel to share success stories and new strategies for engaging the public in the fight against crime.

Chief Welter POP

Chief Welter addresses the conference crowd

“We all need to be ready to make the case for public safety being more than just having officers respond to crime,” said Anaheim Police Chief John Welter at the 20th annual “Problem-Oriented Policing Conference.” “In the long run, a problem solving strategy is so much more effective and financially efficient.”

The conference features three days of seminars from top law enforcement officials and criminal justice academics.

Coined by University of Wisconsin professor Herman Goldstein, Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) emphasizes research, analysis, prevention and the participation of public and private organizations.

“Most of our private sector partners require just a little help and direction,” Welter said. “But we all need to lead that effort by providing accurate and convincing crime information… and then following up with concrete examples of what community members can do – and how they can do it.”

David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay University in New York, noted several simple ways police can deter repeat offenders. One involves more honest and direct communication.

“If all you do is tell them (how to avoid prison) – you get huge changes in behavior,” he said, adding, “no sane human being wants to go to prison.”

Kennedy also encouraged police to think beyond the traditional criminal justice system – to informal social controls – in developing deterrence strategies.

An effective technique involves family member participation.David Kennedy's "Deterrence and Crime Prevention"

“Most offenders harbor real doubts about what they are doing,” he said. “When they don’t care – get the people around them to care.”

To illustrate the power of the strategy, he asked: “When you were a kid, how many of you were afraid of police officers?”

Only a few hands went up.

“How many were afraid of your mother?”

Most hands went up.

Most offenders still listen to their mothers, friends or other influencers, he said.

“Just find the pressure points wherever you can,” he said.

Later this week, the Herman Goldstein Award will be given to a police agency that exhibited innovation and effective use of POP techniques to resolve a community problem. Anaheim PD was a finalist for the award in 2007 for its effort in cleaning up The Boogie! nightclub. To read APD’s submission, click here

For more about the conference or POP strategies, visit the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing’s Web site here and download one of its many innovative guides.

Anaheim to Host Problem-Oriented Policing Conference

Hundreds of the brightest minds in law enforcement will convene in Anaheim next week for the 20th annual Problem-Oriented Policing conference.POP Conference

The three-day event, scheduled for Monday-Wednesday at the Disneyland Hotel, “is often described by attendees as the most substantive policing conference they’ve ever attended.”

Seminars will be held on topics ranging from “Stemming Motor Vehicle Break-ins” to “Graffiti: Tag, Your Out” to “The Mechanics of Community Development.”

Anaheim PD has also been called upon to present. Police Chief John Welter will join Michael Scott from the Center of Problem Oriented Policing in opening the conference – and welcoming attendees. On Tuesday, APD Sgt. Tim Schmidt and Officer Dave Wiggins will present “Using Situational Crime Prevention in Anti-Terrorism Efforts: Manipulating Risk, Effort, Reward, Excuse and Provocation.”

For more, visit http://www.popcenter.org/

And check Behind the Badge for daily reports from the conference.