Local law enforcement officials are rolling out a new way to prevent crime and catch criminals in York County.
Police and the Rock Hill-York County Convention and Visitors Bureau on Friday introduced a website that they say will increase communication between hotel owners and officers.
The general manager of Towne Place Suites by Marriott on Dave Lyle Boulevard said the new tool will give his guests peace of mind and hopefully reduce the chance of crime on hotel property.
The website is like “community watch on steroids,” said Ryan Tilden, general manager.
Hotel owners and managers will be able to log in to the “Rock Hill York County Connect” website, www.rockhillyorkcountyconnect.com, and report crimes or suspicious activity immediately.
Rock Hill police and the York County Sheriff’s Office will monitor the site, respond to calls and track criminal activity trends.
The website will require a secure log-in and not be available for the public--which police say will reduce the chance of criminals using the site with ill-intentions.
Local officials got the idea from an international tourism conference where Mikki Rentschler of the convention and visitors bureau heard about a similar website’s success in Albuquerque, NM.
The online strategy will help law enforcement alert hotels and businesses more quickly when there’s a potential for crime sprees such as repeated armed robberies, which happened in Rock Hill in May of 2012.
Rock Hill police arrested two men they say robbed the Microtel Hotel on Riverview Road and Hampton Inn on Tabor Drive last year.
“We don’t have the resources to go to 28 hotels anymore and knock on the doors,” said Rock Hill Police’s Major Steve Parker. “We want to, but we don’t have that ability. With this website, we now have that ability.”
Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols said he’s hopeful the website will expand to include retail stores and other businesses, which is how the city of Albuquerque started its online crime prevention project.
“The limits of this can reach to the skies,” Parker said. “We need to communicate in different ways — law enforcement can’t be everywhere all the time.”
The new tool, if expanded to other local businesses, may have come in handy on Thursday night, Parker said, when Rock Hill police responded to five car break-ins in the Interstate 77 area of Dave Lyle Boulevard and Celanese Road.
The break-ins started about 6:45 p.m. in the Olive Garden parking lot on Dave Lyle, according to a Rock Hill police report.
Officers say three cars were damaged and someone had taken several items from the vehicles.
At the restaurant, someone broke two windows with what appeared to be a screwdriver and took cash, clothes and electronics from the three vehicles, the report states.
In total, the Olive Garden parking lot thief got away with about $1,500 in items or cash.
A fourth car break-in happened behind the Cracker Barrel across the road around 8 p.m., according to a Rock Hill police report.
The thief took a $14,000 check, receipts and a cell phone from a Ford 550 truck in the parking lot, the report states. Police say the thief apparently “punched out” the truck’s driver’s side door lock.
A fifth break in call came in about 20 minutes later to the Outback Steakhouse off Celanese Road.
Police say the thief smashed in a car window and took $300 cash, a grocery store gift card and about $1,400 worth of items.
“If we can communicate that to the hotels and motels, so that they immediately know that they need to be on the lookout and they’re getting alerts on their phones and they’re calling us if they see suspicious behavior--that’s a win-win,” Parker said.
Law enforcement officials’ new crime prevention initiative will “help strengthen relationships” between officers and businesses, said Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts.
“Working together, we will develop appropriate plans to address community concerns,” he said.
The website is another way for city police and county deputies to combat crime together, said York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant.
“We’re really the envy of the state,” Bryant said. “When we start talking about multijurisdictional efforts, that we work together. We’re all in the same game of trying to make our communities safer.”