Greenwood considers hotel licensing ordinance to battle crime

Police are cracking down on crime at hotels and motels in Greenwood. (WTHR/Jennie Runevitch)
New Solution for Problem Hotels
New solution for 'problem' hotels

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WTHR) - The City of Greenwood is exploring a plan to crack down on crime-ridden hotels and motels that have been causing problems for police and neighbors for years.

13 Investigates exposed the troubling problems last year at certain hotels and now the city is taking action to make things safer.

The crime Greenwood Police captured on an officer's body cameras and shared with 13 Investigates last August unfortunately hasn't stopped at hotels and motels clustered near Main Street and Interstate 65.

"Prostitution, drug overdoses, a lot of drug usage, warrant arrests," said Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matthew Fillenwarth.

Plus, the Johnson County Health Department documented health code violations for things like bed bugs, mold and unsanitary conditions. Now, city leaders say they've had enough and want to encourage certain hotels to clean up their act.

"Some of those places are just dirty as hell," said Greenwood Common Council At-Large Drew Foster. "I've lived in Greenwood all my life. When you come into the city, they've always been kind of a problem location. If you're going to run a business in this city, we want you to run a responsible business and be considerate of your neighbors."

Foster proposed an ordinance, which is now being studied by a committee, making Greenwood hotels get a license to operate. It would cost $75 and would have to be renewed each year. Then police and the board of public works would have the power to punish places with too much crime.

"I want this ordinance to serve as a motivation to improve those businesses. I don't want to see anyone go out of business. I want to see everybody improve themselves," Foster said.

It's to improve numbers that continue to trouble city leaders.

In 2018, police made nearly 580 runs to seven Greenwood hotels for things like drug raids, drug overdoses and warrant arrests. Year-to-date in 2019, they've made 327 runs to those same hotels.

The proposed ordinance uses simple math for a fix. If the number of police callouts is twice the number of hotel rooms at a hotel or motel, they're put on probation. Then, if they can't get those callout numbers down or if they end up getting more violations, the license is revoked and they could be forced to closed.

Hotels would have the ability to appeal, if they got in trouble.

Indianapolis has a similar ordinance, on a much larger scale, that was put into place in 2018.

Foster says they hope to finally be able to do something for places in Greenwood that just don't seem to improve, putting bad businesses on notice and keeping everyone safe.

"We're watching you," Foster said. "You're at risk of losing your license."

13 Investigates spoke with a manager at the Red Carpet Inn/Fanta Suites, which has had a lot of police runs in the past. They told us they haven't formed an opinion on the proposed ordinance. They're still reviewing and researching, but say they also want to see crime go down around their facility, just like the police department.

Greenwood's council is still working out details for the potential new rules, before taking another vote. If the ordinance passes, it likely would take effect in January.

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