Hilliard police say a recent operation achieved the desired results of reducing criminal activity at the city's hotels.
"I think we've sent the message not to come to our city and will continue to send that message. We're watching," said Hilliard Lt. Dave Plesich.
The Special Investigation Unit of the Hilliard Division of Police recently concluded Operation Night and Day, an undercover effort that targeted prostitution and drug trafficking at local hotels.
The first phase concluded June 28 and a second, less-concentrated effort was launched July 4, Plesich said.
"We know we're making an impact because towards the end of the first phase, we were packing it in early because we weren't seeing anything suspicious," he said.
Targets for the operation were based on reports from the patrol bureau.
"The data showed hot spots where patrol was getting a lot of calls for service, and we concentrated on those hot spots," Plesich said.
One of those areas was the former Motel 6, now Knights Inn, at 3950 Parkway Lane.
"Our data was showing an uptick of activity at our hotels (and) most of the calls for service were to Knights Inn," Plesich said.
He commended Knights Inn for its cooperation during the operation and for implementing new policies to deter criminal activity.
"(Knights Inn) is following our recommendations and have been exemplary," Plesich said.
Knights Inn manager Neil Patel said the company is implementing the suggestions of Hilliard police, including a recommendation to not accept cash from some guests looking to rent rooms.
"We will accept only credit cards from Franklin County residents," Patel said.
The company is also installing 32 cameras throughout the property July 19-22, he said. The hotel also is hiring a private security guard from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and compiling a "do not rent" list.
Operation Night and Day also visited Hampton Inn, 3950 Lyman Drive; Homewood Suites, 3841 Park Mill Run Drive; and Comfort Suites, 3831 Park Mill Run Drive.
Six people were arrested during the operation, five of whom were arrested on outstanding warrants for drug possession or prostitution.
"We didn't add on any new charges," Plesich said of the five.
A "vast majority" of the arrests occurred at Knights Inn, he said.
The sixth case was a 27-year-old Plain City woman who was arrested for soliciting. Police later added a felony charge of possession of drugs.
Investigators arranged to meet that woman and others they found on websites, Plesich said.
"These aren't instances of streetwalkers. These are pre-arranged meetings where these kinds of activities are occurring," he said.
Plesich said the inability for local residents to pay with cash will have a chilling effect on criminal activity.
"A big lure for (prostitution activity) is the ability to pay for rooms with cash," he said.
Hotel rooms are also used as one-night stops for drug trafficking.
"Someone who comes across a couple of pounds of marijuana to sell isn't going to do it from home. They will rent a hotel room," Plesich said.
During the operation, police chose strategic times and locations to observe suspicious activities at the four sites.
In addition to making six arrests, police initiated traffic stops of suspicious vehicles coming and going at the target areas. They conducted 17 traffic stops and issued three citations, two of those for driving without a license.
Police also utilized the city's zoning department to address property code violations at the hotels, Plesich said.
The current phase of Operation Night and Day isn't quite as comprehensive as the initial sting, Plesich said, owing in part to its success.
"But we're watching, and I think we've sent the message we want these kind of people out of our city," Plesich said.
In addition to implementing new security measures, Knights Inn is making infrastructure improvements worth about $150,000, Patel said.
Carpet is being replaced in about half the rooms, many rooms are getting new mattresses and box springs, the parking lot will be repaved and the buildings' exteriors will be repainted, Patel said.
The hotel's sign has not been replaced yet because Motel 6 had an internally lighted sign that current city code prohibits. Knights Inn will erect an externally lighted sign once it is manufactured, Patel said.
"We're doing a lot to improve the experience of our guests (and) always cooperate with the police," he said.