Police Best Practices for Addressing High-Crime Motels

Components of program for increasing security, police response to problematic motel environments

Next, investigators conduct a thorough examination of the motel property. Specifically, they should note the security and crime prevention measures, or lack thereof, such as lighting, overall appearance, parking facilities, motel policies, landscaping, and fencing. Then, officers outline a specific plan for the motel owner and managers to use in improving the condition and operations of the facility, therebymaking it less attractive to those involved in criminal activity. Many proven crime prevention measures exist that officers can present, including--

* posting signs at the entrance to the property and the lobby stating that the motel participates in an ongoing partnership with the police to address all suspected criminal activity;

* instituting a policy that visitors and guests must display a current, dated parking permit obtained from the lobby for their vehiclesand produce photo identification (staff will have the records available for police inspection at any time);

* employing a night watchman;

* issuing a written agreement with management that the motel will institute a zero-tolerance policy regarding drugs, prostitution, trespassing, underage drinking, gangs, and violence and will notify the police immediately upon evidence of any such activity;

* encircling the property with a secure fence so vehicles and pedestrians can enter and exit only at designated areas;

* installing high-intensity lighting and closed-circuit surveillance cameras in all hallways, the interior and exterior of buildings, and throughout the parking lots;

* allowing law enforcement experts to train motel staff to recognize and properly report suspected criminal activity;

* forbidding the renting of rooms for less than a 24-hour period;

* reducing or removing obstructing landscaping to ensure adequate viewing of the property from the surrounding areas; and

* completing necessary painting and other maintenance of the motel.

Meeting with the Motel Owner and Managers

Representatives from the police department and the city attorney'soffice then meet with the motel owner and management to discuss the ongoing problems and the measures that authorities expect to be taken. Ideally, motel representatives will comply willingly with all crimeprevention measures, and no abatement action will be necessary. Uponagreement in writing, periodic meetings will help ensure compliance with all agreed terms, and progress can be documented.

Patrol Efforts

Next, the department designates officers to conduct self-initiated, high-visibility enforcement for at least a 6-month period. Coupled with the crime prevention measures put into place by the motel, thorough police enforcement should have a lasting and significant impact on criminal activity at the property.

Assessment of Results

Finally, law enforcement officers assess the overall effectivenessof the program by comparing the current CFS/room ratio with the figure pertaining to the same period for the preceding year. Initially, the number of calls for service and self-initiated arrests likely willrise during the first phase of the program, but these occurrences should decrease significantly over time.


The La Mesa Police Department found the Motel Crime Prevention Measures Program successful. For several years, one lodging facility in its jurisdiction had a higher number of calls for service, arrests, and incidents of criminal activity (including two murders and one attempted murder) than any other motel in the city. Before implementationof the program, its CFS/room ratio was 2.42, compared with an average of .8 for the other area motels.

Several meetings with the owner and managers resulted in an agreement that the motel would institute nearly all of the crime preventionmeasures mentioned earlier. After 1 year, the ratio for this facility dropped to 1.46. And, the number of calls for service and arrests continues to decline.