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Special Report: Are some motels magnets for crime?

May 17, 2018 11:26 PM

Over the past few years, News10NBC has told you about several deaths, drug overdoses, and prostitution cases at lower priced motels in our area.

Is anything being done to stop the problem? Pat Taney investigated.

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The numbers are pretty shocking. 

Over the past year, police have been called hundreds of times to hotels or motels in the area.

In February, Jennifer Baker of Greece was found dead from an overdose. Her body was wrapped in a blanket in a Motel 6 room on Buell Road in Gates.

In Ontario County, two people were busted in January with a large supply of drugs at the Super 8 Motel on Routes 5 and 20 in Canandaigua.

In Henrietta, there was a recent stabbing at an Extended Stay, and in July 2017, a man was sentenced for forcing a girl to have sex with adult men over several days at the Gates Motel on Buffalo Road.

That's four recently disturbing cases at motels in our area.

We checked in to check out the problems. We chose the Gates Motel, which is locally owned.

At the Gates Motel, you can pay for either three hours or an entire night. We paid $65.00 for one night. 

The motel doesn't hide the fact that sex is a big seller there. You can rent porn and other supplies in the lobby.

The room was basic and relatively clean, but there was a heavy smoke smell in the air. We did find what looked like a container that once held drugs. Later, we uncovered a discarded bag police say is commonly used to hold drugs.

During the day, it was pretty quiet, but after midnight, things really picked up. We noticed a steady stream of cars throughout the night.

We saw multiple men and young women going in and out of rooms.

In Gates, this is an issue police know all too well.

"We're located right on the border of the City of Rochester," Gates Police Officer Lance Duffy said. "We do have economy hotels in our area and sometimes that does attract-- the lower rate-- does attract these people." 

Gates Police are taking action and trying, when they can, to punish motel owners.

They recently arrested Satish Patel, owner of La Quinta Inn in Gates. He's accused of giving a discounted rate to a woman busted for prostitution in 2016.

But the crimes continue and motel permits continue to get renewed.

Taney: Some might ask why not just shut them down?

Officer Duffy: "It's a tricky thing. It's not the hotel's fault. They offer a service that out of 100 people, maybe only 5 are the element we are concentrating on.

We then asked Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini about this.

"I am not of the mind to shut a business down," Assini said. "I am of the mind that if a business is having trouble that we bring them in and say," Guys, clean up your act or we will take action.' Are we doing that in Gates? Yes. Will we continue to do that? Yes." 

But is it enough?

At Motel 6 on Buell Road, police have been called nearly 200 times over the past year alone. At the Gates Motel, police have been called around 50 times.

"I would have a hard time telling a hotel that's trying to address the issue to close," Assini said.

Taney: Trying? We've got in the past year, at Motel 6, page upon page of criminal activity. Is that trying?

Assini: Some of those crimes are minor, some are not. But we do address the issues and we've had Motel 6 in numerous times about the crimes. But to suggest Motel 6, or any other hotel in the town of Henrietta or Greece, should shut down, I don't agree with that. If the hotel is not trying to make efforts to clean things up, that's one thing, but hotels sometimes attract elements unfortunately that don't respect the law.

We reached out to the owners of both the Gates Motel and Motel 6, but neither returned our repeated calls.

Years ago and miles away, down the Thruway, the City of Niagara Falls dealt with similar issues.

"We were getting complaints from block clubs in the area about prostitution and drug-related activities in homes and hotels," former code enforcement director and current Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso said.

The City of Niagara Falls fought back. Police legally can't always shut a business down.

"It's tough for them to do it themselves," Virtuoso said.

But Virtuoso could. His department, along with the city fire marshal, joined police on hotel raids.

"It was very effective because when police did raids, we would follow and do our inspections and we were able to condemn a lot of these places," Virtuoso said.

Taney: How successful was this multi-agency approach?

Virtuoso: Ninety-nine percent. I think every time we were able to find something to shut the place down.

We asked if that's something towns in the Rochester area could adopt.

Assini said they have in the past.

"We just went into a place on Chili Avenue, after a fire, and we addressed some code issues there," Assini said.

Taney: What about Gates Motel or Motel 6? Are you happy with their plan of action to renew their permit when it comes up? 

Assini: We are there all of the time. These hotels do an ebb and flow. At Gates Motel, around 50 calls over a year and with the density and the number of people going there, they have problems but no more than any other hotel.

Assini said he will continue to work with motel owners to address issues.

"I get that people don't like the concept of the Gates Motel. But it's not illegal and we'll continue to monitor them," Assini said.

Police also promise to continue stakeouts and undercover work to crack down. 

"We're doing the best we can when we can. If there is anyone out there with tips, call them in," Officer Duffy said. "We absolutely will investigate that, but rest assured, that we are out there 24 hours a day and we do watch for this type of activity."

Credits

Pat Taney

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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