Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

State News

April 30, 2014

Motels not required to conduct background checks

(Continued)

A person’s requirement to be on the registry can also expire, though some are required to be registered for life.

Behind closed doors

One law enforcement officer who has studied the issue of “disorder at budget motels” is Karin Schmerler, of the Chula Vista Police Department in California, who wrote a guide in 2005 for the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.

Schmerler told the Tribune-Star her study found that management practices are the chief indicator of whether a motel will have problems that require police intervention. A wide variety of problems occur at budget motels, including disturbances, domestic violence, theft, public drinking, prostitution, drug dealing and use, fights, clandestine drug-lab operations, sexual assault and robbery, according to Schmerler’s report.

Many of the problems can be reduced through better motel management, design and regulation, she said. When told about the April 1 incident at the Econo Lodge in Terre Haute, Schmerler said it is not common for motels to do background checks on their guests, so it is not likely that motel management would know if a person has a criminal record.

The Econo Lodge management knew that at least a few of the guests had criminal histories because the motel owner had a verbal agreement with the Department of Correction to house some parolees through the DOC Assist program. That agreement was terminated at the request of motel management after the April 1 incident, but other convicted felons still reside there.

A check last week of the offender registry for Vigo County showed 13 offenders registered their address as being within one mile of the Econo Lodge. As of ThursdayApril 24, that hotel was listed as the residence of 10 people on the county’s sex offender registry; another offender lives just a block away, while two other offenders reside several blocks away, but within a 1-mile radius of the motel.

On that day, the Econo Lodge had more registered sex offenders staying there than any other single location in the city.

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