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Published on Monday, February 10, 2014

Florida Police ask for tourist tax dollars to fight crime

Following a spate of robberies in hotels in Orlando's tourist district in recent weeks, a law-enforcement group proposed extra spending on public safety, directly financed by the local hotel tax.

The Fraternal Order of Police wants the Florida Legislature to let local councils use some of their tourist tax dollars to fund public safety improvements in tourist areas.

There has been over a dozen robberies targeting hotels and restaurants in the Orlando area, thought to have been carried out by the same armed gang.

The Police group points out that revenues from the hotel tax are required by law to be invested in initiatives that promote and support tourism.

It said the current situation could put Central Florida's reputation as a safe place to visit at risk.

The move is likely to face resistance from Florida's influential tourism industry which has fought similar plans in the past to use tourism tax dollars for anything other than marketing expenses in driving more business to the Sunshine State.

Jim Preston, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Florida said police, fire and ambulance services invest lots of money and resources protecting tourist areas.

"I think it's reasonable that some of those tourist-tax dollars should be going to those agencies to help offset those costs," he said.

It was also revealed that the Orange County Sheriff department spends around $7 million annually just on policing the International Drive tourist area in Orlando.  

The hotel tourist tax which is set at 6% of the cost of a hotel room, is a major revenue generator for the Orlando area.

Orange County raised over $190 million in tax revenue last year, much of which was spent on marketing for the Visit Orlando campaign and for paying off construction costs of the Orange County Convention Center.

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