A GARDA recruit is using her previous experiences as a hotel manager to create a new initiative where hotels, B&B’s and other accommodation facilities are linked in with the gardaí to create a safer community.
Heather Chandler joined An Garda Siochána in November 2016. It was her second time applying, having first attempted before the recruitment embargo was implemented during the recession.
“I always wanted to be a guard. After the embargo was introduced I worked away in the hospitality sector but I always had thoughts of coming back,” she said.
Gda Chandler worked in hotels for more than 15 years, and as a hotel manager for a decade.
She is now spearheading a pilot project that sees gardaí working closely with hotels and B&Bs and could see the establishment of a hospitality text alert system.
Based in Killarney, where she lives with her husband, Garda Chandler currently commutes to Clonakilty where she was stationed after her eight months training in Templemore.
“Clonakilty is very community-based and famous for its tourism. We have five probationers, all working on community projects, and I wanted to use my previous experience to create something that would enhance visitor experiences.
“I saw an opportunity to engage with the hotel industry and create an exchange of information that would help to build up the relationship between the Gardaí and the local hospitality sector.
“We have mutual concerns and can help each other in a number of ways such as issuing warnings around any trends that are noticed such as forged money or credit card fraud.
“It is all about establishing a point of contact and then a text alert system that will send information out to all hotels and B&Bs.”
Garda Chandler said that her project is, at the moment, just centred in Clonakilty, but if successful she hopes it will be expanded across West Cork and possibly nationwide.
“It is all about ensuring a positive and safe experience for tourists.”
At the moment, Garda Chandler is working on putting together a package for hotels and B&Bs that can be passed on to guests.
“It is an information pack with security tips, property advice and information numbers. The idea is to make people more aware of their surroundings and in tune with the local services no matter how brief their stay.”
“It takes time to build up, but once you have made contact it is easy to maintain.”
The garda said she has received an extremely positive reaction to her project.
“The extra support is welcome and the fact that I have experience in the industry means I am relatable.”
West Cork Superintendent Con Cadogan was full of praise for the innovative project.
“We certainly want to work with the business people of West Cork. Heather has taken the initiative here and it is great to see that.
“She came from the industry before she joined the guards and it is about utilising the skills that she has already and using them to the benefit of An Garda Siochana and to the benefit of the hotels and B&Bs.
“We welcome anything that will reduce crime in an area, that is our main priority, and to make the area much safer for everyone to live and to work and holiday and to enjoy. That is what we are trying to achieve and it’s about everyone working together.
“Tourism is a big aspect of life in West Cork and in Clonakilty. It is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and it has grown and grown. They have done road analysis on the traffic that has passed through West Cork and between 2016 and 2017 there was a 42% increase in the number of people travelling the roads around the Wild Atlantic Way.
“We are delighted to be associated with it and supporting the business owners of West Cork.”
Rebecca O’Keeffe of the Emmett Hotel said she was delighted to be a part of the scheme.
“I think it is really reassuring to have the support of the Gardaí. If you have any specific concerns, it is great to know you have somebody there and Heather has previously worked in the industry as well so she understands the concerns a bit more.
“It is nice to be able to talk to someone openly and freely. I think the Garda can sometimes be very separate, whereas this makes it more inclusive and it is easy for me to pick up the phone and say I am concerned about this, that or the other. It is also nice that it is preventative measures, so you are forewarned and forearmed.”