When not teaching Torah at Texas A&M, Rabbi Peter Tarlow teaches "tourism safety" to police chiefs around the world.
Q: How did a nice rabbi like you get mixed up teaching police chiefs how to control crowds?
A: I got my PhD in sociology but, because I love to travel and speak several languages, I specialized in tourism. At the same time, our police department recruited me for their chaplain's program, since I was the only rabbi in town. . . Later, I was hired by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to develop a course in tourism safety. It's kind of funny, people in the Jewish world have trouble believing that I'm a major expert in tourism safety, and the people in the tourism world have trouble believing I'm a rabbi.
Q: Do you ever weave Biblical stories into your teaching?
A: Always. Last March, on the day before Passover, I was the keynote speaker at the Pacific Rim Security Conference in Hawaii. The Passover Seder is based upon the 10 plagues, so in my speech I came up with 10 plagues of tourism as it pertains to crime.
Q: Such as?
A: The plague of not caring. The plague of the crime of distraction. The plague of feeling lost. The plague of lacking common sense. The plague of tourists dropping their inhibitions when they travel.
Q: That would be the plague of mooning?
Q: What steps can tourists take to steer clear of trouble?
A: Step 1: Think. You may be on vacation, but the criminal is at work. Use the same logic and precautions as you would at home. Two: Don't take something with you that you can't afford to lose. Three: Check out hotels prior to arrival, especially if you are a person at risk. A woman traveling alone should avoid staying at a hotel that doesn't have an interior entrance. Look for a hotel that has a lobby to pass through to reach your room. Also, if I were a single woman traveling alone, I would not check into a room on the first floor of a hotel with a sliding door.
Q: Are crimes committed by tourists as often as against them?
A: Probably less. Tourists are very bad at reporting crimes. They don't want to come back to testify. Some cities, like Honolulu, are responding to that problem by paying to bring the person back. Eventually, people will be cross-examined in their communities via inter-communicative television.
Q: What obstacles do you face when teaching cops?
A: Many cops believe their only job is to arrest people. My message to them is about customer service--serving rather than protecting. That can be a threatening message. . . I suggest that they should receive more training, learn foreign languages, put more people on foot and horseback patrols, and redesign uniforms.
Q: To make them look less menacing?
A: Tourists feel comfortable where there are police around, but if they see too many police they get scared.
Q: What would a softer uniform look like--bells on jackboots?
A: Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the British bobbies wear soft uniforms. You don't necessarily need to have a prayerbook in your hand or a sombrero on your head.