People who check into a handful of motels in downtown Reno are giving out more than their names and credit card information.
At six motels, Reno police can check the guest registry online
to look for crooks and sex offenders.
In the first three weeks it has been in operation, the program
has resulted in 14 guests being arrested on felony warrants and has
turned up four unregistered sex offenders - at just one motel.
"Fourteen out of 30 rooms had arrests," said Kevin Barnes, one
of the three police officers on the 2-year-old motel interdiction
team supported by the downtown police tax district.
Barnes said he hopes other motels will join the voluntary
Under state law, motel owners must allow police to look at their
registry. But they are not compelled to e-mail their guests' names
to the police department as the six are doing.
"This is long overdue. I'm just ecstatic," said Jackie Ford, a
downtown resident who heard Barnes and Sgt. Greg Ballew speak
Tuesday at a Reno Redevelopment Agency citizens advisory committee.
Eighty percent of people arrested downtown live in 50 small
motels in the area, police said.
"We are housing the very element we are fighting against,"
Barnes said. "Downtown residents live in fear."
Barnes said police also have arrested a number of motel managers
suspected of dealing drugs or trading lodging for drugs and keeping
an assortment of weapons. In these cases, Barnes said, police
located the motel owners, who often live out of state, and told
them how their managers allowed drug networks to operate on their
Police now have good relations with most of the motels, he said.
"It's part of breaking the chain," Ballew said.
Police work with charities to get some motel tenants back to
work and into better housing. And Washoe County library and school
officials have teamed up for an after-school tutoring program at
the downtown library.
The cost of motel crime to the city is huge, Barnes said, using
one motel as a case study. Before police began the crackdown, they
responded to 74 calls a month at the motel. "After we got through,
we have had absolutely no calls," Ballew said.