New ordinance puts problem Broken Arrow hotels on notice


By John Dobberstein, Editor

A new ordinance approved by city councilors is designed to help local hotels and motels reduce crime and put a handful of them on notice for not doing enough to prevent crime on their property.

Broken Arrow Police Chief Brandon Berryhill told the Broken Arrow City Council recently that the department has identified some local hotels and motels that have been a “source of an inordinately high volume of calls for service” in recent years.

BAPD officer Mike Peale and Sgt. Keith Cook created a survey that was sent to other “benchmark cities” similar in size to Broken Arrow to see what those cities are doing to combat crime at hotels.

The department said Chula Vista, Calif., has an ordinance in place to monitor and deal with hotels that elicit high calls for service from their police department.

Berryhill said his department used the general structure of Chula Vista’s ordinance to create the current proposed ordinance, but they worked with city staff to adapt it to the needs and expectations of Broken Arrow.

Lori Hill, tourism director for Visit Broken Arrow, created a survey that was sent to all the Broken Arrow hotels to identify problem areas.

Berryhill said the survey dealt primarily with security and operating procedures, “but it also provided multiple opportunities for feedback and concerns.” Nine of the 14 lodging establishments in Broken Arrow responded.

Using this information, Peale created a class entitled “Crime Prevention in Overnight Lodging” that provided best practices for hoteliers wishing to suppress criminal activity at their businesses.

The 1-hour class was offered to all the hoteliers, their management staff, and the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce in three different in-person sessions and one online session.

Hotel operating permits are renewed annually through the city. The ordinance and associated permit will now require four things from participating hotels: occupancy taxes due to the city must be kept current; hotel must pass an annual code enforcement inspection of the exterior of the property; hotels must pass an annual fire department safety inspection of their business; and hotels are not permitted to have an exorbitantly high number of calls for police service at their business.

The ordinance is designed to give the hoteliers resources to minimize their call-for-service numbers.

Calls that do not have a law enforcement nexus (medical calls, vehicle collisions, etc.), or that are self-initiated by an officer (vehicle checks, pedestrian checks), and any call in which a trespass warning was issued to an involved party on behalf of the hotel are not considered when tallying police calls for service.

The remaining numbers are put into a formula to determine if there is a problem.

If the hoteliers use available resources and make good-faith efforts to minimize criminal activity at their establishments, the calls for service numbers should be low, Berryhill said.

The police department said the ordinance “is in no way designed to be punitive in nature” but it creates a way for the police department to monitor issues as they arise to provide resources expeditiously to any hoteliers needing them.

The department said the proposed ordinance will also “provide a way for the hoteliers to monitor themselves and open a line of communication between the city and the police department.”

The annual license to operate can be subject to denial or revocation by the city clerk or a designee, or the police chief or designee, “upon good cause shown” that the hotel operation “has negatively impacted the health, safety and/or welfare of its guests or the residents or businesses of the neighboring community.”

The negative impacts could include not being in compliance with codes, drug- or prostitution-related arrests, exorbitant calls for service or “any other conditions, problems, issues, concerns or facts that are deemed relevant.”

In processing a proposed revocation, the police chief must prepare an “investigation report” that details the circumstances that have led to the revocation, and a hearing is called before the city manager.

If the hearing does not end favorably favor for the operator, the decision can be appealed to the City Council.

When all appeals are exhausted and a license to operate has been revoked by the city, the operator must surrender theor operating license to the city and cease operation within 72 hours.

A conditional license to operate cannot be re-issued for a period of 3 years from the date of revocation.

“The ordinance is not meant to punish the high-scoring hotels,” said Aaron McColloch, media relations manager for the city of Broken Arrow. “The police department’s goal is to work with them to suppress criminal activity and provide them with resources to minimize calls for service.”

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