Oakland Sues Motel

Oakland Sues Motel

Oakland sues to close motels linked to prostitution
Will Kane, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle December 23, 2010

In just the past six months, a motel on the east side of Oakland's Lake Merritt has been the site of beatings, burnings, whippings and rapes as pimps try to indoctrinate and dominate new prostitutes before putting them to work, according to a suit filed by the city against three motels.
City Attorney John Russo hopes to shut down that motel - the Economy Inn on East 12th Street - and two others in the eastern part of the city, ending what he says is continuing prostitution at the motels, sometimes involving girls as young as 14.
Russo said he hopes the Economy Inn, the National Lodge on International Boulevard and the Sage Motel on MacArthur Boulevard will either be cleaned up or closed within a year.
In suits filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, Russo asked that each of the motels shut down for a year and be made to pay a $25,000 fine, as well as court costs.
"If owners can't take even rudimentary steps to prevent their businesses from becoming a danger to the community, we will shut them down," Russo said.
California law says motels are responsible for preventing prostitution on their properties. If they fail to do that, cities can sue to have them closed as public nuisances.
Oakland police say women and, in one case, a 14-year-old girl have been raped by their pimps before being forced to work out of the motels while the owners of the properties turned a blind eye to both the violence and continued prostitution.
According to the court records, in October one woman was abducted from San Diego before being beaten, whipped and burned with a lighter by a pimp at the Economy Inn. Police suspect prostitutes use the National Lodge and the Sage Motel as home bases while they work the corners, often bringing customers back to their rented rooms.
While a number of Oakland motels have reputations for prostitution, Russo said he has the strongest cases against these three. Each motel's owners has rebuffed efforts by police to help prevent prostitution, he said.
But Hiral Patel, who along with his wife manages the National Lodge, said he is doing all he can to make the National Lodge a prostitution-free zone. It is difficult, Patel says, because the motel is in the heart of "the Track," a stretch of International known for prostitution.
Patel, whose father owns the motel, said he often calls police to complain about women loitering on the sidewalk. He doesn't allow unregistered guests to stay in the rooms. A sign on the office window says "Absolutely No Prostitution Allowed."
"We want to stop it. It is just me and my wife; it is hard for us," he said. "I live here so I don't want that kind of stuff here."
Staff at the Economy Inn and the Sage Motel declined to comment.
Russo said the motels still have a chance to stay open but must start cooperating with police and implement reforms to combat prostitution.



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