Murder, fights, overdoses plague a Baton Rouge motel. Why can't the parish stop them? (2023)

No fines, curfew enforced from 2018. Written order to reduce crime at local motels


Murder, fights, overdoses plague a Baton Rouge motel. Why can't the parish stop them? (2)

Data show that over a 15-month period, Baton Rouge police responded to 11 shootings, 11 robberies, 13 burglaries, seven gun-related "interruptions," four fights, 28 overdoses and a hit-and-run at the OYO Motel near ​​the hotel. intergovernmental. 12.

Another violent incident at the large motel complex occurred early Thursday morning when 32-year-old Jaci Bergeronhe was shot several times and died around 01.40.said BRPD spokesman Lt. Don Coppola.

This is the latest homicide reported this year at several motels hit by violence in Baton Rouge.

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The shooting underscored once again why the OYO complex on Airline Highway, one of two national motel chains in Baton Rouge, has drawn the attention of city and parish leaders as they struggle to implement a 2018 ordinance.aims to reduce human trafficking for sexual purposes, drug use and other crimeat local motels. Logs of 911 calls from the OYO address show that since early 2021, 523 incidents at the motel prompted a police response — a rate of about 1.1 calls per day.

OYO Motel is a "bad operator" where crime has run rampant, hurting both legitimate hoteliers and tourism, said Darryl Gissel, the city and parish's chief administrative officer.

At the same time, Gissel said the four-year-old ordinance to eliminate such bad actors has essentially been a bad duck ever since it hit the city and parish registers. No motels have been fined or closed, he said, although about 70 of the city's roughly 280 motels and hotels — including the OYO location — lack the necessary permits.

A secretary at the OYO location off Airline Highway on Gwenadele Avenue said the hotel could not comment on pending criminal investigations.

Gissel said implementation difficulties stem from the regulation's lack of clarity. He said the bill leaves uncertain whether the city-parish or courts will fine or close hotels if they don't meet licensing requirements.

Gissel said he would like improvements to regulations, such as requiring hoteliers to reapply for permits each year.

A rule passed by the Metro Council in January 2018 required hotels and motels to apply for permits through the city-parish, giving officials the power to suspend or revoke those permits if hotels record more than one prostitution or drug-related arrest, or if law enforcement conducts frequent calls to the service point in a short time.

The city can also suspend or revoke permits for activities that "adversely affect the health, safety and welfare" of visitors or people living nearby, according to previous reports.

If their licenses are revoked, the hotels and motels would have to close within 72 hours. Businesses will be fined depending on their size if they violate their permits: Those with four to 89 rooms can be fined $500 a day for noncompliance; those with between 90 and 149 rooms can be fined $750 per day; and those with 150 rooms or more can be fined $1,000 per day.

The regulation calls for self-referral by hotel and motel staff.

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It was created afterarrested for human trafficking in December 2017, where police arrested two men in Arkansas accused of transporting a 16-year-old girl from Arkansas to Louisiana, posting her photos on a prostitution website and trading her for sex. The men were stopped on their way from the motel.

OYO Motel used to be Days Inn, another national hotel chain. Even before it came under OYO ownership, the company was on an earlier list of problem motel sites identified by members of the Metro Council during deliberations on the pending ordinance.

Several fatal and nonfatal shootings have already occurred in the past few months in a cluster of motels around the site of Thursday's killing near the Airport Expressway and I-12 interchange.

In January,The woman shot and wounded her boyfriendat the same OYO location after an argument about another woman. Less than two weeks later, one man shot another at the Sleep Inn across the street,says a Mexican "saint of the dead" told him to do itaccording to the investigators.

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office and BRPD report calls from hotels and motels in the parish to the DA's office, officials from those departments said.

However, companies like OYO show how many of these motels can remain open even after a list of phone numbers is compiled for law enforcement.

In recent years, apartment complexes in Tigerland — an area that was developed to offer LSU luxury housing but has since declined due to rising crime — have been closed after being deemed a nuisance under state law, a rule separate from city and parish ordinances. .

In 2020, the judge found one complex to be a nuisancemany killer shootings there.Two months later, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III sent a letter to the ownersanother complex where a woman was shot in front of her childrensays he faces the same sentence.

Moore said Thursday that the OYO motel had been on his office's radar "for quite some time." He said his office is also monitoring several other hotels and motels with high rates for calls to police.

Metro Council members who arrived Thursday were shocked to learn that no motels or hotels had been fined or closed under the rule, despite about 70 businesses not having licenses.

"By abusing this ordinance, we appear to be missing an important opportunity to address crime," Councilman Dwight Hudson said in a prepared statement. “When it was presented to the council, it was clear that it would have a positive effect when implemented in other cities. The main problem seems to be the administration of the permit fee and proper monitoring.'

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Hudson said he plans to contact the mayor's office and the parish attorney's office to make sure they have mechanisms in place with BRPD, the sheriff's office and the city-parish licensing department to enforce the ordinance.

In an interview, BRPD Chief Murphy Paul said the department's response numbers make it clear that motel crime is concentrated in a few specific locations.

"We know," he said, "that there are duplicate addresses."

Send an e-mail to James Finn atJFinn@theadvocate.comor follow him on Twitter, @RJamesFinn.

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