News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Peter Mathews, Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 10, 2004 - Motel managers are tightening security and trying to reassure night clerks amid a series of frightening -- and increasingly violent -- robberies.
From March 23 to Thursday, eight motels from Bardstown to Mount Sterling have been robbed. Some hotel employees have been tied up or beaten. One was raped.
No one keeps national statistics about motel robberies, but the businesses often become targets because they're usually along interstates -- and simply because they're open late at night.
"You're not dealing with master criminals here," said Robert Rusting, who publishes a newsletter on security at hotels, casinos and resorts.
"It's not The Thomas Crown Affair."
Motel robbers tend to be desperately seeking money, often for drugs, and many move on to other areas after a few robberies. But some return to rob a motel again if they succeeded easily the first time, he warned.
All of the recent robberies have occurred between midnight and 7 a.m., presumably when a single clerk would be present.
In almost all of the cases, the clerk reported seeing two men, one black and the other a light-skinned black or Hispanic, their faces covered by bandannas or masks. One man brandishes a handgun.
Most of the robberies have been at hotels within a mile of Interstates 75 or 64. But on Thursday the pair robbed a Bardstown motel about 4 miles from the Bluegrass Parkway.
About 2:15 a.m., two men jumped over the counter at the Comfort Inn. They beat the manager with their fists and cut him with pruning shears they had apparently found outside, Bardstown police Detective Larry Coombs said.
They escaped with money from the register and cash and jewelry from the manager, who was taken to the hospital. The robbers also took the videotape from the security camera.
About four hours later, a Winchester motel employee was raped during a robbery there.
Authorities are putting "an additional emphasis" on motel security, said Lexington police Sgt. Doug Lamb, who did not want to describe the measures more fully.
He said Lexington police have been in touch with counterparts in some of the cities where robberies have occurred. There have been three in Lexington, two in Winchester and one each in Georgetown, Mount Sterling and Bardstown.
Motel security is left largely to franchisees, people in the industry say. Area motels, including those that have not been victimized, have begun making changes.
At the Sleep Inn on Plaudit Place, at I-75's Man o' War Boulevard exit, manager Ashley Renton said doors are locked and clerks have begun using a teller's window that protects them from outsiders. She has also asked police to step up patrols and park a cruiser out front from time to time.
The motel is also thinking of hiring a night security guard, she said.
Some managers said they are checking outside doors more often and being more vigilant about reprogramming key cards after guests check out. And they are being careful not to keep large sums of money around.
The Motel 6 in Georgetown, which was robbed last Saturday morning, has installed new doors so people can enter only through the front door, said Sue Smith, a desk clerk.
Nirav Patel, manager of the Super 8 at I-75 and Winchester Road, said all doors are locked at night now, but employees still worry.
"He's kind of scared," she said of her night clerk. "He was about to quit."
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(c) 2004, Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.