KCBD investigates motels surrounding Villa Town Inn - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

KCBD investigates motels surrounding Villa Town Inn

Source: KCBD Source: KCBD

On Thursday morning, Lubbock County District Judge Les Hatch granted the state's request for a temporary injunction. This means the doors to the Villa Town Inn will remain closed for now.

Tawny Taylor believes the closing is justified.

"There's been times I have had to come up here at night and that's scary. You bring somebody with you, you bring a gun," Taylor said.

Taylor works right next door to the motel at R&R Automotive. Her office overlooks the property, where she said officers responded frequently.

"Five or six times a day was not a shock," Taylor said.

According to court documents, Lubbock police responded to more than 1,500 calls at the Villa Town Inn from January of 2015 to April 9, 2017.

Lubbock County Attorney Matt Powell called it, "a deplorable place."

"All kinds of crime, from prostitution to drug trafficking, to aggravated assaults, homicides, and domestic violence," Powell said.

That's why his office, including Assistant Criminal District Attorneys Morgan Day Vaughan and Neal Burt, requested a temporary restraining order.

"In this case, the judge felt we had met that burden of proof, so he granted us the temporary restraining order," Vaughan said.

The owners of the property, the Kushwahas, based out of California, were given a list of the changes that needed to happen to abate the criminal activity.

Vaughan said some of the things on the list included requiring ID upon check-in, no longer allowing payments to be made in cash, adding security cameras, and hiring Lubbock police officers to act as security guards for the property.

"They chose to close the property down. Now it is in the hands of the receiver," Vaughan said.

Which meant dozens of people were left with nowhere to go.

"A lot of people left their stuff here; they couldn't take it with them," said Ann Margaret Sanders.

Sanders was one of the last people to leave the Villa Town Inn, moving out on Tuesday of this week.

She said many of the Villa Town Inn residents are now staying at the Salvation Army or in Tent City.

Sanders is lucky, she has friends who have opened their home to her until she can find something more permanent.

"There is nothing this cheap anywhere. Maybe Slaton, but you know, a lot of us don't have cars to go that far," Sanders said.

Taylor said while she is glad to see the motel boarded up, the evictions have been hard to watch.

"There was a particular family, a man, a woman and three of their children. They were walking through and the kids were each holding a trash bag and they had their backpacks on their shoulders. They had given all of their money the day before to the hotel. They wouldn't give it back. They had absolutely nothing," Taylor said.

We asked Burt if the county had any concerns about where the residents of the Villa Town Inn would go.

"Certainly, anytime we displace anyone there is a certain level of concern. We were hopeful that family members, the residents themselves, would be able to avail themselves to perhaps some of the other business in town, some of the non-profits, the charitable organizations, the Grace Campus, things of that nature," Burt said.

We asked Burt if the county notified any of the non-profits that the motel would be closing.

"At this time, I would say no, because we needed to file the paperwork first," Burt said.

We spoke with the manager of the hotel, Paul Hewitt, when the paperwork was first filed.

Hewitt answered our questions, but he asked that we not show his face on camera.

"Ninety percent of the problems that are here, come from people who do not live here," Hewitt said.

Hewitt said the location of the motel did not help.

"There is a lot of criminal activity in the neighborhood in general," Hewitt said.

The KCBD Investigative Team wanted to know if other hotels in the area were having the same problems as the Villa Town Inn, so we requested the number of the number of calls police received from 14 motels surrounded the Villa Town Inn.

The Lubbock Police Department provided us with calls from January of 2015 to February 25, 2017.

The Koko Inn, just down the street from the Villa Town Inn, received 1,076 calls.

Some of those calls were for shots fired, assault, failure of registration for a sex offender, and domestic disturbance.

The Red Roof Inn had 894 calls, including shots fired, theft, robbery, prostitution, sexual offenses, and domestic disturbance.

Police responded to 672 calls at the Motel 6 for reports of crimes like sexual assault, robbery, prostitution, narcotics and domestic disturbance.

The carriage House had 634 calls, including theft, robbery, failure to register, suicide, and domestic disturbance among others.

Out of the 14 hotels we investigated, the Country Inn and Suites had the least amount of calls to police at just 35.

We took these numbers to the Lubbock County District Attorney's Office.

"I don't think we can address specific other locations," Vaughan said.

However, she did say any time their office sees a large number of calls for service that meets statutory guidelines, like shots fired, they are concerned.

We asked what they consider a large number.

"I would say it is a case by case scenario. The recent shooting at the Villa really got not just our attention, but the attention of law enforcement and a lot of folks in Lubbock. I'm not saying it has to be a serious triggering incident for us to take action. I think in filing and seeking this nuisance abatement, we got the attention of folks in town. Some of them well meaning, some of them not so well meaning," Burt said.

We asked him if he is aware of other hotels who may be operating the same way as the Villa Town, hotels that are not requiring identification or allowing customers to pay in cash.

"I would say some of them are probably operating similarly," Burt said.

"Is Lubbock County looking into other hotels right now? Has this shined a light on other properties," we asked.

"I think it has and will continue to," Burt said.

We asked Burt about the five of the 14 hotels on our list with the most calls to police.

"That is not an indicator that all of those locations are behaving in manners that are offensive," Burt said.

He said there were a couple motels on our list where management does cooperate with officials and is working to eradicate crime on their own.

Burt said that is an important factor when determining if his office needs to take action.

KCBD did speak to the top five hotels with the most calls to police to see if they wanted to make a comment. Those hotels declined at this time.

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