Holidays are plenty busy for GPD officers assigned to the mall
Published: Friday, December 28, 2012 at 8:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 at 8:33 p.m.
The holidays are a busy time of year for policemen assigned to patrol The Oaks Mall. Gainesville Police officers Derek Tirado and Joseph Register know this more than most.
“There are certain things we’re watching for,” Register said. “It’s not individuals. It’s body language — shifty eyes or big bags. If you walk in with four or five huge bags, we notice. Certain days are real important, like Black Friday or day after Christmas.”
GPD generally sees a spike in arrests at year’s end at the mall. Tirado and Register are the only officers specifically assigned there.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they made 40 arrests. By comparison, the month before there were 19. According to GPD spokesman Ben Tobias, the workload during the season doubles and the officers do what’s necessary to ensure the public’s safety.
“GPD’s Oaks Mall officers are invaluable when it comes to tackling the busy holiday season,” Tobias said, “They are able to efficiently handle situations that are so specific to The Oaks Mall — things that would take a patrol officer much longer to complete.”
Register, 46, became a police officer by way of the ministry. After a stint in the Navy, he said, he wanted to do God’s work.
“Strangely enough, all my brothers at one point or another were called to ministry,” he said.
So Register worked at a church and ministered to the congregation while pulling double duty as a janitor, he said.
He became a police officer after he moved on from his work at the church, but he said people still seem to want to talk to him about God and Jesus while in the back of a patrol car. He said now he can do the work of the ministry in a uniform with a badge and handcuffs.
“If need be, I can do what I need to do. And I will protect up to using deadly force, but people make mistakes,” he said of dealing with criminals in his role as a police officer. “Seventy percent are just kids and young adults that have done something dumb. They need some mercy sometimes. We serve the community, and I work for these people. There are laws I’m determined to protect, but it’s no reason to treat someone like a dirtbag while I’m taking them to jail.”
Register has been working at the mall for the past six years. He said when he got the assignment, it seemed a good fit, and he enjoys it. It’s like washing the dishes, he said. If you do it right, they keep asking you to do it.
Register said he sees all types of shoplifters and lawbreakers, but he also knows not everyone is in the same situation. Some of them shoplift because they’re short on cash, while others do it as an occupation.
One case, he said, involved a criminal who would go into stores, unload the merchandise into a car, and return to the mall for another round. By the time the person was busted, the criminal had enough stolen goods for a felony charge, and Register even found a shopping list on them.
Another time, an elderly woman was seen stuffing expensive purses into a duffel bag. Register said he watched her inch toward the door using the duffel bag as a walker on her way out. She ended up with over $8,000 worth of purses before she was caught.
Although GPD officers make the arrests, Register stressed that success in his work comes from teamwork with The Oaks Mall security guards and loss prevention officers. He knows them all and he said they can usually spot someone who looks suspicious and have enough time to organize a shoplifting bust peacefully.
He understands that it’s more productive to talk someone into handcuffs rather than to apprehend them via a takedown or a tackle.
It’s easier, he said, to just tell a person, ‘look you’re not a very good thief. I know you made a mistake. Let me see what I can do for you.’
Register said his approach has paid off. There have been parents who have come back to him and told him what a difference he made — how a youth turned around after being arrested.
That’s why he does what he does, he said — to make a difference and to serve.
Regardless, there are some aspects of police work he likes more than others. For example, he knows that the cops in Miami Vice might not be the best example of the rigors of police work.
”We are the tip of the spear for the legal system, so if we make a small mistake here, that mistake can mean the dropping of a case,” he said. “So I understand the importance of paperwork. But if I saw Crockett and Tubbs doing paperwork, I might have picked a different profession.”
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