Cities don't use nuisance laws to fight crime at problem hotels - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Cities don't use nuisance laws to fight crime at problem hotels

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Police made 214 runs to the Red Carpet Inn in Jeffersontown in 2012. Police made 214 runs to the Red Carpet Inn in Jeffersontown in 2012.
Jeffersontown Police Chief Rick Sanders Jeffersontown Police Chief Rick Sanders
Sanders said his officers stay busy making arrests at the Sun Suites of Louisville. Sanders said his officers stay busy making arrests at the Sun Suites of Louisville.
Fred Cogsworth Fred Cogsworth
Jim Mims Jim Mims

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Hotels filled with drugs and prostitution are spilling crime into city neighborhoods and laws meant to help police, aren't really much help at all. There are loopholes in the nuisance ordinance that keep hotels like the Red Carpet Inn in Jeffersontown in business, even though police made 214 runs there in 2012.

At midnight on a Friday night at the Red Carpet Inn, tucked away on Hurstbourne Parkway off Interstate 64, a reporter watched as customers checked in at the front desk at the front of the property, while a scantily clad woman popped out of a car in back.

There was no apparent security patrolling the area but it's a familiar scene to Jeffersontown Police. In early July, police arrested a local attorney accused of trying to trade prescription pain killers for sex with a hooker in one of the rooms.

"Although they do have more problems there than most, this is something that goes on everywhere," said Jeffersontown Police Chief Rick Sanders.

Sanders said crime and low priced hotels often go hand in hand, and his officers stay busy making arrests at the Sun Suites of Louisville, an extended stay hotel on Taylorsville Road. Chief Sanders even said his officers even respond to incidents at more mainstream hotels.

On Monday a mother was found dead after apparently over dosing on drugs at the Ramada Inn on Bluegrass Parkway, her 4 and 14-year-sons in the next room.

Chief Sanders said police runs to the Ramada are less frequent than the others, but he said it highlights the challenges police controlling crime at hotels. A problem, Chief Sanders said, can spill out into the community.

When criminal activity becomes a public nuisance, property maintenance codes allow cities to take action. First with fines. Then, vacating a property, or shutting it down for a year, if the crime continues.

But Chief Sanders said Jeffersontown has never used it's so called "nuisance ordinance" to crack down on problem hotels.

The city of Louisville hasn't either even though Metro police have been dealing with crime at hotels for years, most notably the Economy Inn on Bardstown Road where we found LMPD made 1,580 police runs from June 2011 to June 2013.

It's a trend that's left neighbors frustrated police and city government haven't done more.

"Usually the left hand and the right hand don't seem to know what's going on," said Fred Cogsworth, who lives behind the Economy Inn. "Because you would think if the right hand knew what the left hand was doing, that place would be shut down."

Turns out it's not a lack of communication, but a lack of teeth, that keeps the nuisance ordinance from being used. The law only allows the city to take action against the specific unit where a crime occurred. In short, the city could shut down one hotel room for ongoing crime, but not an entire hotel.

And even shutting down a single room would be difficult.

The property maintenance code also says all the property owner needs to do to address a nuisance is evict the tenant. Something that happens anyway when they're arrested.

Jim Mims, director of Louisville Metro's Department of Codes and Regulations, said the law was written that way to protect people that use low cost and extended stay hotels as a home when they have no where else to go.

"There's a lot of families that are living on those premises, you know mothers and kids," Mims said.

"If you're going to go to that extreme case of ordering the premises to be vacated or closing it down we need to have some tactical plans for dealing with these families that would be displaced by such an order."

Chief Sanders said another reason Jeffersontown doesn't try harder to find ways to use the nuisance ordinance to crack down on places like the Red Carpet Inn is because management works with them, calling in crime when they see it. Louisville Metro Police say the same has been true at the Economy Inn.

Both departments have added extra patrols to curb crime at the hotels.

Management at the Red Carpet Inn wouldn't comment. And a reporter was unable to reach managers at the Sun Suites Inn and Ramada Inn for comment.

A spokesperson for the Economy Inn said it has new management that is focused on curbing the crime there.

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