KSL INVESTIGATES

KSL Investigates: Denver Motel Task Force Could be Model for Salt Lake City

Oct 22, 2018, 10:15 PM | Updated: 11:34 pm

DENVER, Colorado – An area of Salt Lake has more than its fair share of crime. The community wants it cleaned up, but the city’s hands seem to be tied. So the KSL Investigators went out of state in search of a potential solution to make our community more safe.

For seven months, the KSL Investigators looked into issues surrounding a notorious neighborhood along North Temple, and reported on those problems last month.

Police responded to allegations of rape, drugs, theft and assaults 1,087 times in 2017 at the Gateway Inn, investigated 336 cases and made 132 arrests. Police records show the motel also makes the top 10 list for police services every month.

Then there are the health issues. KSL went undercover to see rooms that were crawling with cockroaches and contaminated with high levels of meth.

The city and police would like to clean up the Gateway Inn.

Police thought a new city ordinance, 5.88.040, would help. It allows the city to take action against problem properties, but there is one complication: the city has to be able to tie the crime directly to the business owner and authorities say that is extremely difficult.

“It probably doesn’t make sense,” said Mary Beth Thompson, Salt Lake City’s Chief Financial Office. “But that’s the way the ordinance is written.”

Jaswinder Singh has owned the Gateway Inn for the last three and a half years. When KSL spoke to him last month, he said he does his best to keep the criminals away.

“I’m very, very, very frustrated here,” said Singh. “If we know druggy people are selling drugs, we never rent the room. Never, ever.”

Denver’s Motel Task Force

In search of a solution, the KSL Investigators hopped on a plane and paid a little visit to our neighbors to the east. Denver is home to the longest street in the U.S. and an even longer list of “problem” motels.

Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson says the difference with Denver is they’ve found a way to fix that problem.

“I think it’s been very effective,” said Bronson.

Denver’s Motel Task Force inspects the Western Motor Inn on September 27, 2018.

Five years ago, Denver created a Motel Task Force. Every major agency including police, fire, the health department, building inspectors, zoning and the city attorney’s office, converge on a property all at once to conduct a massive inspection where every room in the motel is checked.

On the day of KSL’s visit, we accompanied inspectors to the Western Motor Inn to search every nook and cranny for things like pest infestations, water leaks, mold, working smoke detectors, drugs and squatters.

“We are seeing some pretty egregious stuff today, absolutely,” said one inspector.

For those who stay at the motel, like Alisha Massey, the reviews aren’t much better.

“I’d probably rate them like a one because of how bad this place is,” said Massey. “We’re hoping to get out of here.”

Following the inspection, the city attorney’s office decided to close down the motel.

“This is so out of compliance and presents such a danger that we’re having to shut it down,” said Marley Bordovsky, a city attorney who specializes in code enforcement.

Bordovsky is the one who developed the idea for the Motel Task Force. She says before 2013, an operation like this would have been impossible.

“We have come a long way as a city and this collaborative effort has become a game changer for us,” she said.

Denver’s Motel Task Force inspects Denver’s Motel Task Force inspects the Western Motor Inn on September 27, 2018.

Besides the Motel Task Force, Denver has a very specific ordinance, 481-98, which says any property where illegal activity occurs can be declared a public nuisance. The business can ultimately be shut down if the crime doesn’t stop, and if the motel owner can’t or won’t bring the property into compliance.

And that is the difference between Denver and Salt Lake: crime does not have to be tied directly to the property owner in Denver.

Bronson says that message is being heard loud and clear.

“I think the word is out that in Denver, we are willing to move forward,” she said. “People are thankful that the city is doing something.”

Bronson says the ultimate goal is to bring the problem motels into compliance.  Over the last five years, they have inspected about 40 motels and only had to close two. The Western Motor Inn makes it three.

Advice for Salt Lake City

The advice Denver officials have for Salt Lake is that compliance is key. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes every agency working together to clean up problem businesses.

Right now, it doesn’t seem to be happening in Salt Lake City, but maybe that could change.

“We need to put laws on the books that work to protect the citizens of Salt Lake,” said Wilking.

Salt Lake City leaders say they are working with the owner of the Gateway Inn to clean up the property and make it safer. They say over the past month, since KSL’s original investigation aired, the property owner has been cooperative.

Despite Crime & Health Violations, New SLC Ordinance Does Little To Solve Problems At Local Motel

More stories from the KSL Investigators

KSL 5 TV Live

KSL Investigates

Homeowner Mark Shea tells KSL’s Matt Gephardt he paid someone to build a deck who abandoned the j...

Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Homeowners ask why authorities can’t shut down an unlicensed contractor

Two Salt Lake County homeowners hired and paid someone to build decks for their homes but say he left the jobs unfinished. Turns out, he’s been cited by the state for not having a contractor’s license before.

1 day ago

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, react to a reporter’s qu...

Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox, KSL TV

‘More secrecy’: Utah lawmakers advance bills targeting government transparency

Several bills would chip away at government transparency in Utah, including one proposal that’s a direct response to KSL’s fight for public records. A First Amendment attorney says he’s alarmed.

1 day ago

Matt Gephardt, journalists, looks as paper with a woman...

Matt Gephardt and Cimaron Neugebauer

Get Gephardt: Ticketmaster seizes back purchased seats

Imagine buying tickets to a show, then having the seller refuse to give them to you. That’s what happened to a Utah woman, when she got a refund she didn’t ask for.

2 days ago

Sen. Curt Bramble and members of a Senate committee talk about a bill designed to keep elected offi...

Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox

Should you get to see elected officials’ calendars? These Utah lawmakers say no

The KSL Investigators are days away from going to court to argue for your right to see the Utah Attorney General's work calendar. As we fight for transparency, lawmakers are stepping in to make it so the public doesn't get to see this record of how officials spend their time.

3 days ago

Penny Belgard looks at a photobook with pictures of her son Cody, who was killed by Salt Lake City ...

Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox, KSL TV

Cases on the clock: KSL Investigates lengthy delays in SL County’s police use of force decisions

Months and years tick by as Salt Lake County’s top prosecutor weighs whether he’ll clear or charge officers for using force. The KSL Investigators explore the cost of that wait for officers, families, and public safety.

4 days ago

Pig-butchering is a devastating combination of romance and crypto scams, and it’s taking Utahns f...

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Unmasking the fast-moving pig-butchering scam hitting Utah

Pig-butchering is a devastating combination of romance and crypto scams, and it’s taking Utahns for all their worth.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

KSL Investigates: Denver Motel Task Force Could be Model for Salt Lake City