Mesa moves forward with hotel ordinance to deter crime - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Mesa moves forward with hotel ordinance to deter crime

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Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010 3:41 pm

Mesa hotels will likely be forced to ask guests for an ID or some other proof of identity under a push to drive crime out of the city's hotels.

The city is advancing a hotel-motel ordinance designed to track who stays in hotels, which police say will drive away prostitutes, drug dealers and other criminals who pay in cash and don't give their name.

Police say other cities have fought crime with similar rules, but technology is posing a challenge as the city drafts an ordinance that requires a hotel to see a guest's ID, verify license plate numbers and keep records for a year.

Many hotels are converting to paperless registration, so it's possible for guests to check in, pay by credit card and get a key without interacting with a hotel employee. Hotels don't want to burden guests with showing an ID when a swipe of a credit card will identify who is checking in, said Robert Brinton, president of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We don't want them to say it's a hassle staying in Mesa," Brinton said.

Police are more interested in patrons who pay by cash or who check in at hotels that don't require a name, Chief Frank Milstead said. Patrons who check in with a credit card aren't trying to hide, he said.

"Those aren't the people we're looking for," Milstead said.

The city's Public Safety Committee agreed to move forward with the rules on Thursday. The proposal stems from police statistics in 2009 that showed 6 percent of all warrant arrests and 4 percent of all drug arrests were at hotels and motels. Just 10 hotels accounted for 49 percent of the warrant arrests and 64 percent of drug arrests. Police say regulation will greatly reduce the time they spend at hotels and allow them to fight other crime.

A hotel-motel review board would oversee the rules, with some members being nominated by the hotel industry and some by the city. Hotels that don't collect IDs and keep the information for a year could face fines of $250 to $2,500.

Hotels support the rules, but say the ID issue needs to be resolved so it's possible for guests to check in without showing an ID to a hotel when their identity has been revealed through a credit card payment. Also, Brinton said the six-page ordinance could probably be thinned to two pages to make the rules simple.

"We want something that really is easy to understand," he said.

Brinton also suggested changing a proposal that any city employee could review the hotel information if directed by the city manager. Brinton said that should be restricted to police. Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, who is chairman of the committee, agreed the proposal is too broad now and will need to be narrowed by the time the City Council considers the issue later this year.

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