Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to disorder at budget motels, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

General Principles for an Effective Strategy
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Enlisting community support to address the problem Establishes joint ownership of the problem and a solid foundation for change …there is sufficient public interest in and political support for addressing the problem A local business association, such as the Chamber of Commerce, may be best positioned to take the lead in enlisting and maintaining community support
2 Obtaining cooperation from motel owners and managers Limits the need to regulate changes in business practices …the needs and opinions of motel managers and owners are sought early in the problem-solving process Not all motels are interested in changing the way they do business; these establishments will require a different approach
3 Establishing and enforcing minimum motel functionality and security standards Restricts the operation of motels to those that can provide accommodations that meet basic standards …pertinent city and county agencies, such as code enforcement, the attorney’s office, and the health department can provide assistance May require years to implement, as well as significant political support and ongoing resources for implementation
4 Establishing crime-and- disorder performance standards and goals Shifts the responsibility for safety to those most able to improve conditions—motel operators …a number of motels already maintain annual CFS/room ratios of less than 1.0 May require years to implement, as well as significant political support
Specific Responses to Disorder at Budget Motels
Deterring/Screening Problem Guests and Visitors
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
5 Requiring all adult guests and visitors to present government-issued photo ID at the front desk immediately upon arrival Creates a record of motel users for police purposes; can help screen out those who do not wish to be identified by motel personnel …front desk clerks consistently adhere to information collection requirements and refuse to allow access to people without proper IDs A guest/visitor log is most useful to police if the information is legibly recorded on a standardized form, or, if possible, entered into a standardized computer database
6 Requiring that guests and visitors be at least 21 years old, unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian Denies minors access to a place to drink alcohol; helps prevent minors from being sexually assaulted in a motel room … front desk clerks consistently refuse to allow unaccompanied minors on the premises and a large number of problem guests are under 21 Can be difficult to implement without perimeter control  
7 Maintaining and enforcing “no rent” and “no trespass” lists Prevents one-time problem motel users from becoming repeat motel users …both visitors and guests are required to present photo ID to enter the property Requires good record-keeping on the part of motels and perimeter control
8 Limiting visitors and contact between strangers Inhibits parties; reduces the opportunity for illicit transactions between strangers …motels can control both pedestrian and vehicle access to the property Controlling the perimeter may be costly
9 Prominently posting notices and signs that clearly outline appropriate guest and visitor behavior, as well as the sanctions that will be levied against violators Sets rules for motel users’ behavior; removes excuses regarding the consequences of violations …guests and visitors read the notices, and management enforces the rules Motels with lower CFS/room ratios may not want or need explicit rules prohibiting prostitution and drug use
10 Guaranteeing payment from high-risk guests Gives motel staff leverage over guests who won’t leave or pay; helps screen guests who can’t afford a room …guests’ credit cards are legitimate Not all motel customers will have credit cards; in these cases, motels can require multi-night deposits well in advance of departure dates
11 Refusing to rent to known or suspected prostitutes, gang members, or drug dealers, or to anyone clearly intoxicated or under the influence of illicit substances Denies motel access to extremely high-risk guests and visitors …clerks can identify high-risk guests, management supports denying them access, and the motel can either replace them with low-risk guests or absorb the resulting short-term loss of revenue Clerks cannot discriminate against people who would like to rent rooms based on their race, religion, gender, or other protected characteristics
12 Implementing clear check-in policies, and training clerks in their use Standardizing and formalizing check-in procedures aids clerks in consistently screening out problem guests …clerk turnover is relatively low, or key information is provided to new clerks, in written form Managers may need to periodically check on adherence to check-in procedures and standards
13 Reinforcing formal and informal social controls over problem guests People who have influence over problem guests limit their ability to frequent the premises, or they require improvements in behavior …problem motels are patronized by significant numbers of people who can be influenced (parolees/probationers, military personnel, college students, or seasonal laborers) Parolees/probationers may have difficulty finding other housing that meets their needs
Managing Problem Guests and Visitors
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
14 Assigning potential problem guests to rooms near the front office or with high natural surveillance Increases the guests’ risk of getting caught engaging in problem behaviors …such rooms are not booked when suspicious guests arrive This response should be used in only a few borderline cases at any one time; if a clerk or manager does not feel comfortable renting to a person, they should not proceed with check-in
15 Employing well-trained, uniformed, on-site security guards, with clear expectations regarding duties Provides significant oversight of the property …guards go beyond patrolling and proactively use all the tools at their disposal to keep order on the property Involves a substantial cost to the motel
16 Prohibiting “back-in” parking Reduces motels’ appeal to criminals; gives guards an opportunity to engage violators …motels are located in or near states that do not require a front license plate Signs prohibiting this practice must be posted; guests may not understand the restriction
17 Inspecting the rooms of guests who refuse maid service or behave suspiciously after check-in Limits the amount of time guests have total control over the use of rooms …motels employ security guards or other staff who are trained in recognizing drug paraphernalia Situations involving suspected clandestine drug labs or sales are dangerous, and police involvement is recommended
Changing the Physical Environment
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
18 Limiting access to the property Problem guests and visitors can be screened out at the front desk …direct room access or use of the property by people not associated with the motel is a source of the problem Involves a cost to the motel; police and other emergency personnel must have access to the property
19 Installing and monitoring CCTV Increases the risk offenders will get caught engaging in illicit or undesirable behavior …the motel has only a few identifiable problem areas Involves a cost to the motel
20 Installing adequate lighting, and improving the visibility at blind corners with mirrors Increases the risk offenders will be detected …problems occur at night and in the motel’s public areas Involves a cost to the motel
21 Landscaping and maintaining the property in a way that minimizes crime opportunities and maximizes the perception of ownership Sends the message that the location is unsuitable for criminal activity …it is done in conjunction with access control, and strict guest and visitor screening Involves a cost to the motel
22 Establishing redesign and property improvement incentives Provides motel owners with resources or benefits for upgrading properties or improving their security features …motels are interested in serving a legitimate clientele, but lack the resources to attract legitimate customers May involve a cost to the jurisdiction and/or the motel
Fostering Responsibility Among Motel Owners and Managers for Maintaining Safe Lodging
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
23 Informing owners and managers about problems on site Removes excuses on the part of owners and managers …the problem motels are concerned about their reputation or the threat of abatement Requires ongoing staff support to forward crime-and-disorder statistics to motels and conduct follow-up meetings
24 Requiring that a manager be on the property at all times Ensures that the property will have 24-hour oversight …a manager can live in the motel Involves a cost to the motel
25 Encouraging owners to sign “good neighbor agreements” Creates a formal record of specific management practices agreed to by a problem motel …the agreed-upon practices can be easily monitored The consequences of violating the agreement should be spelled out
26 Offering employee training programs Provides employees with information that can help them run safe motels; ensures employees are aware of pertinent regulations …training sessions are required and offer information that will help prevent fraud, establishment of drug labs, theft, vandalism, robbery, and other crimes that adversely affect motel finances and employees Requires ongoing staff support to develop, coordinate, and conduct the training
Establishing and Enforcing Regulations and Penalties
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
27 Limiting occupancy to no more than 28 days in a 90-day period, and evicting problem tenants Prevents occupants from becoming legal tenants at motels not designed for long-term stays; removes problem guests …guests staying longer than seven days undergo more- thorough screening procedures, such as credit and reference checks Guests who need long-term housing but can afford or obtain only motel lodging may cycle in and out of multiple motels over a period of months
28 Conducting regulatory inspections and audits Ensures that buildings meet codes designed to protect guests and visitors …city/county agencies coordinate efforts Requires ongoing staff support to coordinate and conduct inspections/audits
29 Implementing licensing requirements for lodging establishments, including minimum security, sanitation, and management standards Ensures that motels meet minimum standards of operation specifically developed for overnight lodging establishments …a significant number of a jurisdiction’s motels operate in a substandard way Requires significant political support to be instituted, as well as ongoing resources to manage the licensing program
30 Enacting special regulations for adult motels Targets those motels most likely to generate a high number of service calls by limiting their operations in various ways …problems at the motels stem from prostitution, and compliance with regulations can be easily monitored Exemptions may need to be made for legitimate hourly rentals such as those for corporate hospitality suites
31 Requiring a performance bond or other changes at the property in exchange for continued business operation Gives police financial leverage over problem motels …problem motels have sufficient resources and incentive to take out a bond Requires legal support and clear evidence of significant problems at a property
32 Seeking cost recovery for excessive city time spent at problem motels Jurisdictions calculate the value of officer or other staff time required to address problems at a motel …one or two motels are extreme outliers with respect to calls-for-service ratios May require legal action
33 Closing the property Problem motels can no longer operate …motel owners have actively allowed crime to occur on the property Can be expensive and time-consuming; must have the support of city or county legal staff; all legal property owners must be accurately identified, which can be a challenge
34 Using asset forfeiture or seizure Jurisdictions assume ownership of property used for illicit purposes …the property can be relatively easily sold or converted to other uses Faces legal challenges
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
35 Continually arresting offenders at problem properties Intended to remove problem guests from motels and deter them from returning …arrests are used to build a case against owners regarding poor guest screening Except for case-building, this is not shown to be an effective use of officer time
36 Conducting field interviews of people at problem motels, and traffic stops of vehicles leaving them; scheduling extra police patrols of problem motels Intended to deter problem guests from frequenting motels …the measures are used to better understand what attracts problem guests to the motels Except for data-gathering, this is not shown to be an effective use of officer time
37 Implementing Crime-Free Hotel/Motel programs Intended to promote voluntary compliance with good management practices   Focuses on process rather than outcomes