Mesa hotels cooperate with city's push to reduce crime - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa hotels cooperate with city's push to reduce crime

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Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 2:22 pm | Updated: 2:40 pm, Wed Jun 23, 2010.

Mesa hotels are cooperating with a push to clean up the industry, police say, after the city proposed new regulations to reduce high crime levels at the most problematic establishments.

The development is especially welcome to city officials who launched a similar crackdown on convenience stores - only to find steep resistance.

The city is still studying new rules for hotels, but owners are actively working to make their properties safer even without the requirements being in place yet, Cmdr. Steve Stahl said.

"They've taken a lot of ownership on this," Stahl said. "And I'm very impressed."

Police have looked to reduce crime after crunching statistics and realizing 6 percent of Mesa's warrant arrests and 4 percent of drug arrests take place at the city's 61 hotels. The 10 worst hotels account for a huge share of the numbers. The problem is worst at hotels where patrons pay with cash and leave little or no trace of themselves.

Police propose that operators see identification of at least one guest to verify the person's identity. The name would be kept on file for a year and available for police to inspect if requested. Also, all employees would undergo mandatory training developed by police and the industry.

Getting more information about hotel guests is critical because criminals tend to pay in cash so it's nearly impossible to identify them.

"This requirement obviously is going to discourage people from committing crimes during these times at this property because now the managers know who they are and who to place blame on and who to direct the police department towards as soon as those crimes occur," Stahl said.

Mesa's Public Safety Committee is reviewing the proposed rules and on Monday agreed to give police an additional 90 days to work on the regulations. Police asked for time to study the practical applications of other rules, such as collecting license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions. Police said they would be sensitive to privacy and to placing too much of a burden on operators.

"We don't want to impose undo restrictions," Stahl said.

While the rules are taking longer to draft than anticipated, the committee's members said they were pleased hotel operators are eager to reduce crime.

"I'd like to applaud them for the way that they have stepped forward," said Councilman Scott Somers, also committee member.

He noted that hotel owners and convenience store operators resisted regulation when the city approached them at about the same time, but the hotel operators have changed their stance. They realize crime can tarnish the hospitality industry's reputation and they see financial benefits to making their operations safer, Somers said.

"Visitors need to feel safe and they need to feel confident when they're booking their trip," he said.

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