Columbus cracks down on businesses with high crime rates

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The Columbus City Attorney's Office says it's given at least five hotel owners and operators an ultimatum, straighten up or shut down.

City attorney Zach Klein said every hotel in the city of Columbus must obtain a permit that is renewed every year. Klein said his office reviews the number of police calls for service per rooms for rent, and reviews police reports to determine if hotels are serving as havens from criminals.

"When you see the call for service ratio, that's the initial red flag," Klein said.

The city prosecutor reviewed 145 hotels in the city of Columbus and said the Southwind Motel at 919 South High Street tops the list. The hotel rents just 23 rooms, but in 2017 police responded to 54 events including five drug overdoses and several reports of weapons.

Klein said the city isn't picking on hotels for petty crimes.

"This is rape, murder, felonious assault, drugs, prostitution, human trafficking...these are very serious crimes," said Klein.

The city attorney is also targeting the In Town Suites at 2420 E. Dublin Granville Road. CrimeTracker 10 reviewed law enforcement data which reveals last year, police responded to at least eight reports of domestic violence, as well as rape, drugs, and gang activity.

Klein said at the Motel 6 at 7480 North High Street near Worthington, police and medics responded to 5-drug overdoses, and reports of robbery, rape, and a shooting.

Klein said all of the hotel owners and managers will be given ample opportunity to make changes, or else the city will yank the hotels' permit.

"I think they're taking us very seriously because we can close down their business because they're running a criminal operation pretending to be a hotel," Klein said.

The city attorney's officer said it's already entered in safety agreements with the In Town Suites on Dublin Granville Road, an In Town Suites Hotel at 4790 Hilton Corporate Drive in east Columbus, and the Extended Suites at 887 Morse Road.

All three hotels are working to hire private security, install surveillance cameras, improve lighting, and change front desk policies. Klein said the city expects hotels to only accept cash payment if a guest can also provide a credit card, and to require state ID.

In recent years, the city attorney's office relied on nuisance abatements to shut down nearly a dozen crime infested hotels along the 161 corridor in north Columbus. Klein said after police boarded up those hotels, crime in the area plummeted an average of 52-percent.

Klein said he's hopeful the owners of the five hotels on the city's radar will make the necessary changes to run a good, clean, safe business and keep their city permit.

"If they choose not to help themselves, then we'll shut them down because they're a nuisance and a problem for all the city of Columbus," Klein said.