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Benicia, California Proposed Ordinance May Require No-Tell Hotels to Tell-All

By Tony Burchyns, Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 1, 2009--BENICIA -- Just weeks after a woman told police she was raped in a local hotel room, city leaders are pushing for mandatory guest registers.

City officials also are seeking to outlaw room rentals of less than a day under a proposed ordinance set to go before the City Council tonight.

The proposed ordinance would require hotel operators to log their guests' true names, vehicle descriptions, license plates and hotel room numbers. The register would have to be made available for inspection by any police officer upon request, city officials said.

Prohibiting room rentals of less than a day would help limit prostitution and other illegal activities, police and city officials said.

Although Benicia has been fortunate to have a "relatively low crime rate" for its hotels, City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin said the measure would provide "an ounce of prevention."

Mc Laughlin said she drafted the measure with Benicia Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli after reading San Ramon had recently adopted a similar ordinance.

Benicia's proposed Transient Registration and Occupancy Ordinance is not tied to an Aug. 9 alleged sexual assault at the Best Western

Heritage Inn on East Second Street, Mc Laughlin said. Police arrested a traveling businessman in that incident on suspicion of rape, but authorities later released the man because of insufficient evidence, Benicia police Sgt. Scott Przekurat said.

City officials say the ordinance is aimed at deterring drug dealers,

prostitutes, unregistered sex offenders and other criminal characters from using local hotel rooms. It is also designed to help police in solving any crimes that may happen in a hotel room.

Przekurat said most hotel employees cooperate with police already, although some hotel corporate offices require employees to refuse cooperation with police absent a court order, city officials said.

San Ramon, Concord, Livermore, Richmond and Union City are among Bay Area cities that have similar laws on the books. Benicia city officials said the ordinances have helped solve child abductions, sexual assaults and drug-related crimes.

Representatives at Benicia's three hotel establishments have been notified of the proposed ordinance, city officials said. In response to comments from operators, some adjustments were made in drafting the measure to avoid unnecessary inconvenience to hotel staffs and guests, officials said.

Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@thnewsnet.com or call (707) 553-6831.

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Copyright (c) 2009, Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.

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