Public-Private Partnership results in Tourist Oriented Policing Squad

Orange County grant through stimulus program
kicks off four-year I-Drive prototype safety initiative
ORLANDO, FL (April 19, 2010)—One of the world’s top tourist and meeting destinations, the International Drive Resort Area, continues with enhanced support of its highly successful prototype safety program, thanks to a grant that has been awarded to Orange County through the U.S. Department of Justice stimulus program.
This month, a new public-private partnership between Orange County Government, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the International Drive Master Transit & Improvement District launched the Tourist Oriented Policing Squad (TOPS). The safety program provides for increased law enforcement presence that will enable the tourist corridor to maintain its strong reputation in the travel industry. It also continues to provide a safe experience for the destination's visitors and employees.
This proactive approach to public safety means an increased presence of bike patrols, marked cars and deputies on foot throughout the area.  Ten additional deputies, specially trained for this program, are on duty for extended hours, seven days a week.  The Orange County Sheriff's Department believes the TOPS program serves as a model for other law enforcement agencies and communities with popular tourist destinations.  Area businesses benefit from increased communication with law enforcement.  The TOPS deputies also offer various crime prevention programs and seminars in their commitment to enhance the safety of the I-Drive area through increased visibility, communication and partnerships.
“This is what happens when organizations work together and think outside the box,” says Alan Villaverde, who serves as chair of the I-Drive Master Transit & Improvement District and is Managing Director of the Peabody Orlando/President/Peabody Hotels Division. The Peabody is located next to the Orange County Convention Center and is undergoing a $450 million expansion and renovation.
“The cooperation shown in this instance has resulted in a proactive approach that provides increased security in the area’s vitally important convention area. Protecting our visitors, our most important job, results in benefits that will ultimately lead to increased employment and will have significant impact for Orange County.”
Orange County partnered with the I-Drive District and its dedicated funding source to commit to the required four-year TOPS program. 100 percent of the funding is a combination of the COPS grant and a special assessment that I-Drive stakeholders agreed to pay in order to fund the program. The safety initiative provides increased services to the 5.3 million overnight visitors each year and the more than 30,000 employees who work in the area each day.
The TOPS program follows the highly successful International Drive District off duty program that was implemented in November 2008. The program will allow for enhanced coverage of I-Drive that is located within the unincorporated area of Orange County for the International Drive Master Transit & Improvement District master taxing unit. The unincorporated area covers over 4,500 acres of accommodations, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), attractions, entertainment, dining and shopping.
Tom Ackert, executive director of the OCCC, says there is nothing more important to meeting attendees than the reputation of the area. The OCCC offers a seven-million-square-foot facility, with 2.1 million square feet of exhibition space, making it the second largest convention center in the U.S. Each year, the OCCC brings more than 250 events to the Central Florida area. As a result, roughly 1.4 million attendees contribute approximately $1.4 billion to the area’s economic impact annually.
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