The economy of Aruba relies heavily on tourism, with approximately 1.5 million tourists contributing about $1.5 billion annually in tourism revenue – nearly 85 percent of Aruba’s gross domestic product.

Aruba has a vested interest in maintaining both a welcoming and safe environment for tourists. However, maintaining this balance can be a challenge for law enforcement, according to Ross Wolf, an associate dean in the College of Health and Public Affairs who has made tourism policing a focus of his academic research and community engagement.

“While police presence can be a welcoming sign of safety to some visitors, others find a highly visible police force indicative of a high-crime level,” he explained.

Aruba recently turned to the tourist mecca of Central Florida for guidance on this complex issue. Specifically, the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association and Aruba Police Force (Korps Politie Aruba in Dutch, the nation’s official language) contracted with Wolf to organize a training program on Tourism Oriented Policing.

Wolf worked with three experts from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to develop the one-week, 40-hour training program. All three experts are UCF criminal justice graduates — Lt. Stacie Moore (M.S. ’02), Capt. Jeff Stonebreaker (B.A. ’85, M.S. ’06) and Lt. Nate Van Ness (B.S. ’90, M.S. ’04), currently a student in the college’s Doctoral Program in Public Affairs.

The team collaborated with Aruba Police Inspector Andrew Hoo, who is responsible for all police officers in the island’s tourist districts, including the hotel areas and beach patrol. “Inspector Hoo was instrumental in taking the training from concept to implementation,” Wolf remarked.

Late last month the team traveled to Aruba for two weeks to present two sessions of training program and a separate 24-hour course for five policing executives. Aruba Minister of Justice Arthur Dowers and Aruba Police High Commissioner Adolfo Richardson kicked off each session by discussing the importance of tourism and police professionalism in Aruba.

Some 70 beach patrol, maritime patrol and district patrol officers; detectives; and local private hotel and security personnel received training during the two sessions. Both sessions focused on developing and maintaining public confidence in police, creating cooperation between police and the business community, holding intelligence briefings with hoteliers and the tourism industry, and ethical issues and considerations.

“We designed the training to emphasize the important role police and security personnel play in acting as ambassadors for their country,” Wolf said. “I am confident that the Aruba police officers walked away from the experience with a broader set of policing skills and renewed pride in their work.”

Wolf is associate dean for academic affairs and technology, associate professor of criminal justice, and interim director of the Doctoral Program in Public Affairs in the College of Health and Public Affairs.