Mo­tel de­clared crim­i­nal nui­sance

Po­lice called to Rode­way Inn 900 times since 2013

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

The Rode­way Inn, the South Col­lege Av­enue mo­tel that has for years been a per­sis­tent prob­lem for po­lice, has been de­clared a crim­i­nal nui­sance prop­erty and could be shut down if the own­ers don’t fix the prob­lems.

In court fil­ings, the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice paints a bleak pic­ture of the cheap mo­tel just off In­ter­state 95: drug deal­ers liv­ing in one of the rooms, guests over­dos­ing on heroin, and pros­ti­tu­tion so rampant that even the for­mer man­ager of the mo­tel has been con­victed of so­lic­it­ing sex there.

In fact, the Newark Po­lice Depart­ment has been called to the mo­tel more than 900 times since 2013.

“The prop­erty is gen­er­ally known in the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity as a

From Page 1 lo­ca­tion where crime oc­curs,” Roopa Sabesan, a state pros­e­cu­tor, wrote in an April law­suit against the mo­tel’s owner.

The con­di­tion of the mo­tel — where rooms start at $44 per night — has de­creased prop­erty val­ues in the area, bur­dened po­lice and makes res­i­dents fear walk­ing around the area, Sabesan added.

Last week, the mo­tel owner, Bhavi Ho­tels LLC, signed a stip­u­la­tion or­der agree­ing the prop­erty is a nui­sance and promis­ing to abide by a num­ber of con­di­tions to avoid the mo­tel be­ing shut down.

“It is a sad fact that there are some busi­ness and res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties in our state that, through ne­glect, serve as mag­nets for crime and re­quire a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of po­lice attention, and this mo­tel has been one of them,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Matt Denn said in a state­ment. “The op­er­a­tors of this mo­tel are now ob­li­gated by court or­der to ag­gres­sively ad­dress the crim­i­nal be­hav­ior that has be­come a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence there or face be­ing forced to close the mo­tel if po­lice calls, com­plaints and ar­rests con­tinue.”

A pat­tern of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity

The mo­tel, lo­cated at 1120 S. Col­lege Av­enue, is likely best known by long­time Ne­wark­ers as the site where col­lege freshmen Amy Gross­berg and Brian Peter­son dumped their new­born baby in the trash in 1996, bring­ing na­tional me­dia attention to Newark. At the time, the mo­tel was un­der dif­fer­ent own­er­ship as a Com­fort Inn.

How­ever, it was a se­ries of more re­cent, lower-pro­file crimes that spurred of­fi­cials to take ac­tion. The state’s law­suit against the mo­tel de­scribed ap­prox­i­mately two-dozen in­ci­dents of pros­ti­tu­tion, drug use and other crimes oc­cur­ring there. Some of the in­ci­dents de­scribed in­clude:

• May 2015: Po­lice ar­rested a pros­ti­tute and her two pimps, who were found in pos­ses­sion of 133 bags of heroin, plus mar­i­juana and crack co­caine. Of­fi­cers noted that the pimp’s son, whose age was not dis­closed, was of­ten present in the room while pros­ti­tu­tion and drug use oc­curred.

• March 2016: Un­der­cover of­fi­cers re­spond­ing to an ad on Back­page.com ar­rested a mother and daugh­ter for pros­ti­tu­tion. Of­fi­cers rec­og­nized both as be­ing known pros­ti­tutes.

• Septem­ber 2016: Of­fi­cers serv­ing an ar­rest war­rant at the mo­tel found the sus­pect in a bath­room try­ing to flush a plas­tic shop­ping bag full of heroin down the toi­let.

• Novem­ber 2016: Re­spond­ing to a call, po­lice found a mo­tel guest over­dosed on heroin, Per­co­cet and al­co­hol. Once re­vived, the guest told po­lice he had bought the heroin from one of two drug deal­ers who re­side at the mo­tel.

• Novem­ber 2016: An un­der­cover of­fi­cer re­sponded to an ad on Back­page.com that promised a “two-girl spe­cial” and in­cluded a photo of a woman in her un­der­wear. The of­fi­cer was in­structed to go to the nearby Bos­ton Mar­ket restau­rant, where he was met by the two women and di­rected to a room in the Rode­way Inn.

Per­haps most no­table, though, is the in­volve­ment of Rekesh Naik, who at the time was a Bhavi Ho­tels em­ployee and man­aged the Rode­way Inn.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege Naik not only tol­er­ated the pros­ti­tu­tion oc­cur­ring in his mo­tel but also was an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in it. Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, his role came to light af­ter Newark Po­lice con­ducted a pros­ti­tu­tion sting at the prop­erty in March 2016.

“One of the in­di­vid­u­als ar­rested stated that de­fen­dant Rakesh Naik had so­licited sex acts from her, that de­fen­dant Rakesh Naik so­lic­its sex acts from many of the girls who stay at the prop­erty, and that de­fen­dant Rakesh Naik is aware that the prop­erty is used to fa­cil­i­tate pros­ti­tu­tion,” pros­e­cu­tors al­leged.

In June 2016, another mo­tel guest al­leged that Naik so­licited sex from her in ex­change for money, adding that she has had sex with Naik more than 10 times. Po­lice ar­rested Naik, and he was con­victed of pa­tron­iz­ing a pros­ti­tute and given pro­ba­tion be­fore judg­ment in Newark’s Al­der­man’s Court.

Ear­lier that year, Naik had been charged with un­law­ful sex­ual con­tact af­ter al­legedly touch­ing a mo­tel guest in­ap­pro­pri­ately, though the charges were ul­ti­mately dropped.

“The vic­tim re­ported that de­fen­dant Rakesh Naik rubbed up against her and placed his hands on her breasts and rubbed them while he was vac­u­um­ing the vic­tim’s room,” pros­e­cu­tors wrote.

He was also ac­cused of grab­bing an em­ployee’s but­tocks, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

The mo­tel prop­erty also in­cludes a stand­alone restau­rant — now shut­tered — that was no stranger to po­lice ac­tiv­ity.

It was once home to a pop­u­lar diner, but its most re­cent tenant, Wize Guyz Sports Lounge and Grill, abruptly closed in early 2014, just a cou­ple months af­ter its owner was ar­rested when a brawl broke out dur­ing the bar’s Hal­loween party. The fight in­volved more than 30 peo­ple and left one cus­tomer ly­ing un­con­scious in the bar with a frac­tured skull. The owner was charged with hin­der­ing pros­e­cu­tion af­ter al­legedly re­fus­ing to turn over sur­veil­lance footage of the in­ci­dent.

‘So many prob­lems down there’

Fed up with the high num­ber of calls to the mo­tel, Newark Po­lice be­gan pur­su­ing the nui­sance prop­erty dec­la­ra­tion in 2015.

“We were hav­ing so many prob­lems down there,” spokesman Lt. Fred Nel­son said.

He said of­fi­cers reg­u­larly pa­trol the park­ing lot and have con­ducted pros­ti­tu­tion stings and drug buys there, but those ini­tia­tives were not solv­ing the prob­lem. The NPD’s Street Crimes Unit started work­ing with the Delaware Depart­ment of Jus­tice to file a com­plaint un­der the state’s Crim­i­nal Nui­sance Abate­ment Act.

The law, en­acted in 2000 and ex­panded in 2011, em­pow­ers the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice to go af­ter prop­er­ties — both busi­nesses and res­i­dences — where drug ac­tiv­ity, il­le­gal firearm ac­tiv­ity, vi­o­lent crime, gang ac­tiv­ity or pros­ti­tu­tion oc­cur. Un­der Denn, the state has ac­cel­er­ated its use of the law.

“One or two prop­er­ties with crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity can bring down an en­tire neigh­bor­hood and cause in­no­cent res­i­dents in the area to live their lives in fear,” Denn said. “That’s why our of­fice has worked so hard over the last year to tar­get such prop­er­ties.”

In April 2016, Denn’s of­fice no­ti­fied the mo­tel own­ers it in­tended to file a crim­i­nal nui­sance abate­ment ac­tion. A year later it did so, fil­ing suit to ask the Delaware Su­pe­rior Court to or­der the prop­erty shut­tered.

Last week, the mo­tel own­ers agreed to a se­ries of con­di­tions to pre­vent the clo­sure of the busi­ness.

As part of the agree­ment, the ho­tel must install sur­veil­lance cam­eras, hire a se­cu­rity company to pa­trol the prop­erty at night, re­frain from rent­ing rooms on an hourly ba­sis and post a sign stat­ing the mo­tel is a drug and pros­ti­tu­tion-free site.

The own­ers also must ob­tain a photo ID from any­one who stays at the mo­tel, en­sure that ev­ery­one on the prop­erty af­ter 8 p.m. is reg­is­tered to a room, pro­vide NPD with ac­cess to com­mon ar­eas and main­tain a list of peo­ple banned from the mo­tel. The mo­tel must pro­vide the list of banned cus­tomers to NPD and call po­lice any­time one of those peo­ple comes to the prop­erty.

Naik, the for­mer man­ager con­victed of pa­tron­iz­ing a pros­ti­tute, is per­ma­nently banned from the mo­tel.

Any vi­o­la­tion of the agree­ment will result in a $5,000 fine and pos­si­bly the clo­sure of the mo­tel.

‘I hope this sends a mes­sage’

Nel­son said NPD has al­ready seen an im­prove­ment at the mo­tel, as the own­ers tried to solve some of the prob­lems as the nui­sance abate­ment process worked its way through the courts. In 2015, there were 500 calls to the mo­tel, but that num­ber de­creased by about half in 2016.

“They’re at­tempt­ing to co­op­er­ate,” Nel­son said. “They don’t have much of a choice. They’re do­ing what they can to meet the cri­te­ria of the court or­der.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the mo­tel could not be reached for com­ment.

Coun­cil­man Jerry Clifton, who rep­re­sents neigh­bor­hoods across the street from the mo­tel, said the agree­ment is wel­come news for the com­mu­nity.

“I un­der­stand from a man­age­ment per­spec­tive, you can’t con­trol ev­ery­thing that hap­pens on your prop­erty,” Clifton said. “But there are some things you can do as com­mon sense mea­sures if you’re se­ri­ous about hav­ing a ho­tel com­pat­i­ble with the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity.”

Over the years, he said, he has heard con­stituents ex­press con­cern about the Rode­way Inn, as well as the Red Roof Inn across the street, which is pro­posed to be de­mol­ished and re­placed with a new ho­tel, con­ve­nience store and gas sta­tion.

He lauded NPD and Denn’s of­fice for tak­ing ac­tion against the Rode­way Inn.

“I hope this sends a mes­sage that we’re not go­ing to tol­er­ate this,” Clifton said. “The end game is to get a qual­ity busi­ness that blends in with the com­mu­nity and is a re­spon­si­ble part of the com­mu­nity.”

NEWARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Po­lice have re­sponded to the Rode­way Inn more than 900 times since 2013, prompt­ing the state to de­clare the South Col­lege Av­enue mo­tel a crim­i­nal nui­sance prop­erty.

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