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Jacksonville, FL (November 28, 2018) – Councilman Danny Becton, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) and many others from the hotel industry, local and state wide, came together for a meeting on November 28th at the Comfort Suites at 8277 Western Way Circle to discuss crime and safety issues with area stakeholders involving southside hotels and motels.

This issue was first initiated when a chance meeting between Councilman Becton and the owner of Comfort Suites, Jitan Kuverji shared views on their perception and concerns that hotels specifically in the Baymeadows area have with a less than favorable image. The two Baymeadows business owners acknowledge that something needed to be done and they were inspired to see what they could do to change things.

“It was from our conversation that we felt area stakeholders needed to come together and work to identify initiatives that can be performed to improve the experience of visitors and the perception of crime within our area hotels in Baymeadows.” CM Becton explained. “We are looking forward to this being the first of what could be the start of many good things to come to begin a direction that can benefit everyone.”

The meeting was held at Mr. Kuverji’s hotel on a Wednesday afternoon. Hotel and motel owners in attendance included representatives from Baymeadows, JTB-I95 and Mandarin. On hand also were JSO represents from the Community Apartment Engagement Unit along with Assistant Zone 3 Chief Jennifer Short. Other organizations in attendance included: Michael Corrigan, CEO of Visit Jacksonville and staff and Northeast Florida Director Nicole Chapman from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

After each attendee introduced themselves, Mr. Kuverji, Councilman Becton and Assistant Chief Short started the meeting with their thoughts as to the purpose and the end goal for which each of them hoped to achieve. They all reached the same conclusion as to the implementation of some sort of crime free program that would help make a difference within our city.

Assistant Chief Short agreed with Councilman Becton that a program used to be in place within JSO, which gave hotels a JSO liaison that provided for a central entity to communicate issues and problems throughout the city. This program allowed hotel owners and managers in and around Jacksonville to keep in contact with each other by providing valuable information that helped identify trouble before it began.

Ms. Short mentioned that the program was around approximately 15 years ago under previous Sheriff John Rutherford. Fred Pozin, owner and General Manager of the Ramada Inn in Mandarin remembered and agreed that the program made a difference. Mr. Pozin’s concern was that this program and any future program must withstand the test of time and the personnel changes within the industry as hotel owners and managers often change, along with JSO leadership. “The key to the program’s success back then began with the communication that was established between hotels and JSO”, Mr. Posin explained. “But due to those previously mentioned changes, the program ended up diminishing as future budgets and priorities changed.”

Throughout the remainder of the meeting the group talked about ways they could improve the communication within the hotel and motel business community. A topic discussed was a possible crime and safety training program for the industry employers and employees and how that might be used to identify and reward those business in compliance. The group also felt that looking state and nationwide for best practices for ideas and solutions would be a source to gather ideas and put together recommendations of a program that might work here in Jacksonville city wide.

In conclusion, the meeting ended with the group dividing into two separate initiatives. 1) Councilman Becton along with Assistant Chief Short setting up a meeting with JSO leadership to begin the discussion of making this a priority and 2) the industry coming together to explore and search for best practices and programs state and nationwide that could be use to model a future program here in Jacksonville. Both groups agreed that they would look for the first of 2019 to place a full emphasis to moving these initiatives forward.