Indianapolis approves ordinance to crack down on high-crime hotels

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance to hold accountable hotels and motels that are magnets of crime, creating a nuisance for local police and fire departments.

The measure will tie hotel licenses to their operators’ efforts to curb police and fire runs at their establishments.

The proposal stipulates that any hotel generating 2.5 or more police and/or fire calls per room in a year would be put on probation or possibly have its annual license renewal rejected. For a 100-room hotel, that threshold would be 250 police, fire and/or ambulance calls generated by guests per year.

Calls from hotel employees, off-duty police officers and hotel security would not be counted toward the total. Also, calls to police or ambulances due to health concerns would not count against hotels. The ordinance also wouldn’t count traffic-related calls.

“If there is a heart attack, that doesn’t count against them,” said council member Jared Evans, who authored the proposal. But Evans noted that if the heart attack or health issue was related to a crime being committed — such as drug use — that would count against a hotel.

Evans said there are 15 hotels in the city with problematic ratios that are resulting in a drain on police and fire resources.

If a hotel reaches or exceeds the 2.5 call-per-room ratio, it will be notified it is operating in a probationary period. That will require the hotel owners to complete meetings with police, fire, health and zoning officials to discuss issues related to the property “contributing to criminal activity and actions to mitigate them and limit their impact.”

If a hotel maintains a 2.5 call-per-room ratio or above for two consecutive one-year periods, operators will be required to hire and maintain an off-duty officer with arresting authority on the property at the owner’s expense.

They also may be required to install safety and security measures such as fencing, lighting or public space surveillance or other uses.

Council member Colleen Fanning, who said she previously owned a hotel, said the proposal was “very well thought out.”

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