RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Police are getting too many calls to motels running rampant with crime. Now, they are trying to team up with lawmakers to help crack down on the problem.
On Wednesday, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham attended a Virginia Housing Commission meeting at the State Capitol. He spoke before the Neighborhood Transitions and Residential Land Use Workgroup.
He told them too much of his force is drained responding to motels that have become a hotbed for drugs and prostitution.
“What that means is there are community members that are calling 9-1-1 and there are no officers to respond,” said Durham.
Durham said it’s a problem seen in other parts of the commonwealth, too.
Richmond Inn on Midlothian Turnpike is the motel with the most calls for service in the capital city. In 2015 there were 536. In 2016 there were 483. So far this year, it’s on track to reach about 500 total again.
“These are not the folks that are going on websites and looking for hotel stays or motel stays,” said Durham. “These are local folks that come up and set up shop in these hotels.”
One woman who identified herself as a former prostitute and drug addict said something needs to be done.
“It’s a tragedy. I’m completely blessed to have made it out alive,” she told the workgroup. “The penalties definitely need to increase on the hotels. They encourage and enable the activity to continue.”
Police proposed creating legislation that would allow for localities to fine the properties for excessive calls for service, similar to false fire alarms.
But during the meeting, concerns were expressed about potential fair housing violations. They also discussed the possibility of a limit discouraging people from calling when they actually need help.
Instead, they are taking a closer look at what’s already on the books to see what they can expand or rework to target the problem.
“If we already have statutes or laws on the books that can assist us in that, we’re definitely going to accept anything they’re going to recommend,” said Durham.
Durham said the workgroup is collaboratively drafting legislation to be introduced during the next General Assembly session.