Madison Heights Moving to Regulate Hotels in Hopes of Reducing Crime

Madison Heights Moving to Regulate Hotels in Hopes of Reducing Crime

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 4, 2018)

Madison Heights, MI- The City of Madison Heights is in the process of adopting a new section in their Code of Ordinances that would regulate hotels in the city and give them the power to shut down those that don’t comply.

The move comes after a human trafficking ring was found to have been using hotels in SE Michigan, including those in Madison Heights, for the prostitution of minors in 2017.  In February Madison Heights City Council passed a resolution regarding human trafficking awareness, and staff was directed to look at ways to help combat the crime.

From Jan. 17 to March 18 there were over a thousand calls made to Madison Heights Police in regards to hotels, with Motel 6, Red Roof and Knights Inn having the most activity. There are 11 hotels in the city.

Calls include drug and prostitution, as well as fighting, vandalism, cars broken into, theft, domestic violence, drug overdoses, and vehicle accidents.

The proposed ordinance was created based on months of research by staff and the City Attorney.  Assistant City Attorney Niccolas J. Grochowski wrote in the memo introducing the proposed ordinance “As  Council is well aware, staff  has been directed  to  explore  and  implement  various  mechanisms to curb crime rates  at  local  hotels.    One of the directed approaches was the possible enactment of a regulatory ordinance.    After  drawing on examples  from other cities  in  Michigan,  state  law, case law, other  states  and  cities  throughout  the  country  and  other  secondary  national  resources, staff is  proposing the attached ordinance that is derived from these multiple  sources for Council to consider.”

Article XV of City Code of Ordinances had its first reading at the Aug. 27 City Council meeting.  A second reading is expected Sept. 10.

The ordinance would require hotels to have a business license that is renewed annually contingent upon inspection by the Fire Marshall and by a building official.  It also lists a number of reasons that a license could be denied or revoked, including:

-If applicants provide false information

-If the owner, operator, desk clerk or other person in charge of the hotel has been convicted of a drug, gambling, prostitution or human-trafficking-related crime.

-If the hotel is delinquent in taxes or other debt to the County or City, and that debt is not the subject of pending litigation.

-Violation of health, fire or building codes.

-Bed bugs, cockroaches, rats, mice, flies, and any other insects or vermin;

-Mold

-Heating, cooling, and ventilation issues

-Water supply issues, including drinking water and hot and cold availability

-Lavatories, baths, and sewage issues

-Electricity , plumbing or mechanical issues

– Adequate lighting issues

-Pools and spas issues

-Housekeeping practices and policies

– Refuse removal issues

-Defective locks

-Non – functional smoke or fire suppression systems

-Severe structural defects

-Zoning or International Property Maintenance Code issues

-Not meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements

-Interfering with inspections

The ordinance also allows for denial or revocation based on “Other  relevant  facts  as  the  Chief  of  Police,  or  his  designee,  may  discover  or  deem advisable or necessary in the course of the review of the application , renewal  or revocation of the license,” such as:

-Criminal activity affecting the public health, safety and welfare

-Drug – related arrests

-Gambling related arrests

-Human trafficking related arrests

-Prostitution – related arrests

-Excessive number of Calls for Service

-Drug Overdoses

-Child Neglect and/or Child Endangerment.

The ordinance also requires hotels to keep an accurate list of guests by requiring photo identification, as well as recording of addresses and vehicle information. And there are provisions for operations, such as requiring linens to be changed between guests, and the banning of cooking equipment such as hotplates in guest rooms. The ordinance also bans hourly rentals.

Councilperson Dave Soltis has been pushing for change. “I think it’s going to be a great ordinance that needs to be in place,” Soltis said.  “We’re attacking the problem from multiple fronts. This ordinance has teeth in it, so we can go after the hotels.  I’ve spoken to several senior VP’s at the corporate level, so they are pushing for compliance from the top down, so that’s a great combination.”

Soltis said Madison Heights Police currently work with Oakland County, and they will be resurrecting a Special Investigations Unit to specifically focus on drug and trafficking related crimes. It will likely be a few months before the city is ready to approve and relaunch the unit, but Soltis is pushing for it to be active by the end of the year.

Another piece of the puzzle is figuring out how to help those engaged in sex work to transition into legal jobs and safer lives.  “The recidivism rate is so high. Even after those doing this consensually are busted, many go back to doing it.  Sometimes they are so addicted to drugs it’s hard to break the cycle, and sometimes it’s all they know,” Soltis said.  “We need to identify resources to get people help.”

In addition to the dangers faced by those engaged in drugs and prostitution, the problematic hotels are a drain on city resources, particularly the police.  “I’m always shocked by how many calls are made,” said Mayor Brian Hartwell.  “Some of these places, the police are there on a daily basis.”

Hartwell did a ride along with the police to observe some of the activity.  “We drove by one of the hotels and all these doors closed at once.  The officer said ‘did you see all those doors close? That’s what happens when they see police.”

“It is happening out in the open, all times of day,” Hartwell said. “And when you know the signs it’s so obvious.”

Most of Madison Height’s hotels won’t have a problem with meeting ordinance requirements, Hartwell said.  “We have some really nice, well-run hotels.  There is a market for legitimate hotels for those who travel. There is a huge demand for the automotive businesses who have people coming from all over the world. Our hope is for all our hotels to give visitors a quality, safe place to stay.”

For more information visit the City of Madison Heights website.

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