Proposal could help curb illegal activity in motels, hotels

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Some Columbus hotels and motels have a reputation for attracting illegal activity like prostitution, drug dealing, and violence.

If a new proposal gets off the ground, the city might soon have a way to fight back.

Along 161, east of I-71, this is nothing new.

The Red Carpet Inn, a one-time haven for crime, is shut down.

But motels like what this used to be are still around.

What may be changing is process to close them for good.

Steve Engel lives just south of Dublin-Granville Road. It’s the place he grew up, and the place he moved back in to as an adult.

“This is home,” he said.

But over the years, his neighborhood has changed. There’s more crime.

“The next door neighbor’s house was broken into just a few months ago,” he said.

In Steve’s eyes, it’s all due to the motels a few blocks away. Some are shut down—the Knights Inn, the Red Carpet Inn. But other hotbeds are still there.

Engel said he has hope, though—and he was at City Hall on Thursday evening inside a public hearing.

The topic was a proposal by City Council member Zach Klein. The public safety chair wants to create a permit system.

It’s a system where if the motel owners let crime take over there business, the city will shut them down and do it quickly — much faster than today’s legal system would allow. The new part of the city code would create strict rules and regulations for hotel and motel licenses. The city could deny permits and renewals if the hotel or motel has patterns of felony drug, prostitution, or gang-related activity, had a history of “repeated acts of violence,” or had an owner who refused to help remedy such problems.

“We’re looking at patterns of gang activity, patterns of prostitution, of human trafficking,” Klein said. “Patterns of drug-related activity.”

We’ve seen it.

It happens.

But a big solution may be coming down the road.

“This has nothing to do with nitpicking,” he said. “This is dealing with the worst of the worst where there is severe criminal activity going on, that’s repeated. It’s habitual and we’re going to hold those people accountable. We’re shutting down those businesses to make out communities better.

“We’re just looking to keep Columbus a better vibrant city, keep it safer and make it a place people want to come and visit and people live here and to stay.”

City council is now on recess.

They’re back in session in September.

That is when Klein says he will bring this issue to his colleagues.

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