Police Best Practices for Addressing High-Crime Motels

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

Many jurisdictions can relate to the problem faced by the La Mesa Police Department at this particular lodging facility. The Motel Crime Prevention Measures Program can have a lasting impact not only on aproblem motel but the entire neighboring community. It can offer a way for officers to reduce the number of crime incidents and calls forservice and to improve quality of life in the surrounding vicinity.


(1) This article mainly addresses motels because of their tendencyto have lower lodging fees, thereby offering an incentive to individuals involved in crime. Many of the strategies presented also could apply to other types of facilities (e.g., hotels and apartment buildings).

(2) In most states, civil and criminal laws establish procedures that allow for city or county governments to either temporarily or permanently abate a motel if the property is declared a public nuisance through a court-ordered injunction. In such a case, the motel owner must cease conducting business, pay substantial fines and restitution,or take steps to deter crime and improve the property.

(3) Karin Schmerler, "Disorder at Budget Motels"; retrieved from %2Oin%20budget%20motels%20karin%20schmerler%22.

Lieutenant Willis serves with the La Mesa, California, Police Department.

RELATED ARTICLE: Formula for Determining the Ratio of Calls for Service Per Room

[Calls for service (50) + Self-initiated arrests (50)]/Number of rooms (100) = Ratio (1.0)

The calls-for-service-per-room ratio offers an effective way to gauge the level of criminal activity at a motel and to compare facilities within a jurisdiction. Ideally, a property will have a ratio of between .5 and 1.0, although this can vary, in part, according to the area. Problem motels will have a significantly higher ratio than others in the vicinity. The La Mesa Police Department strives to keep the ratio of all facilities in its jurisdiction at 1.0 or lower.