Of the many locations where people are attacked due to poor security measures, budget hotels and motels stand out as one of the most dangerous locations for your average citizen in the US. As we will talk about more below, these types of properties often attract criminals who would otherwise go somewhere else. Ultimately, if criminal activity goes on long enough, a guest or patron of one of these locations, or even an innocent passerby, will get seriously injured or killed.

When someone gets hurt or killed by a third-party attacker at a business property, the victim or the victim’s family may be able to bring a claim for negligent security. This is a type of premises liability claim that holds landlords and business owners liable when someone gets hurt as a result of a foreseeable violent criminal attack. Essentially, the threshold questions in a negligent security claim are (1) did the landowner know about the history of violent crime on the property such that the attack at issue was reasonably foreseeable and (2) what steps did the landowner take to protect guests and visitors to the property.

What’s the Difference Between a Hotel and a Motel?

Motel with security issues where violent attacks are likely to occurAlthough “hotel” and “motel” are often used synonymously, there is a subtle difference that stretches beyond the semantic. Namely, the difference between a hotel and motel is how the guest can access a room. At a motel, a guests can access their rooms directly, without having to enter a main building and pass through a lobby. However, at a hotel, guests must enter a main building to get to a room on the interior. This often involves entering through an outside door and passing through some sort of lobby.

Why Might a Motel be More Dangerous Than a Hotel?

Motels, as we just discussed, are types of lodging where drivers or motorists can drive right up to the room. They were originally marketed to drivers back in the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, the word “motel” comes from the combination of the words “motorist” and “hotel.”

Because of how easy it is to access a room at a motel, motels can be highly attractive to a would-be criminal. Think about it: The criminal can ride right up to the room, commit a crime, and make an escape, potentially without being seen.

However, at a hotel, the same criminal would have to enter a building, where there’s a higher chance of being seen by a staff member, another guest, or a security camera. This doesn’t mean that all motels are more dangerous than all hotels. This is certainly not the case. However, motels are typically more attractive to a would-be criminal, all things being the same.

Motel and Hotel Revenue in the US

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the hotel and motel lodging industry posted more than $189 billion in revenue, soaring past the prior year’s $142.9 billion. Although revenues dropped significantly during the COVID 19 pandemic, revenues have since rebounded, ultimately surpassing the pre-pandemic numbers. This trend looks to be holding steady, and revenue numbers will likely post major year-over-year percentage increases into the future.

How Do Crime-Ridden Budget Hotels and Motels Cause Problems in Communities?

According to Guide Series published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, there’s a number of ways problem hotels and motels can cause serious problems for a community, including the following:

Consuming Police Resources

Many of these problem hotels and motels use a tremendous amount of police resources because of the sheer volume of service calls. Whether the calls are for disturbances, trespassing, or violent incidents, the police may have to respond to these locations multiple times per week or, in some cases, multiple times per day. When a hotel or motel chooses to use the police as security rather than hiring security for the premises, this is a way that the business can essentially get free security. In other words, rather than paying for security, these business owners let the taxpayers pay for security by using the police.

Our overworked police force can only handle so much. There’s a set number of police officers, and they have a limited amount of time. Thus, when a business doesn’t hire security and places that burden on the police, we all pay for it. Additionally, the police show up after the fact; they aren’t there to intervene before something terrible happens. So, this practice not only wastes resources, it also does nothing to protect guests and patrons.

Inhibiting Economic Development

In addition to consuming police resources that would otherwise flow to the community, problem hotels and motels tend to inhibit economic redevelopment, according to a study conducted by the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. This is common sense. When a business is planning for a new location or an additional location, the last thing they want to do is set up shop next to a crime-ridden hotel or motel.

Increased Crime in the Community

Budget hotels and motels also increase the amount of crime in the local community when they attract criminal activity to the premises. These properties can become a “crime magnet” for a city, making surrounding areas of the city into no-go zones. They can eventually become what’s known as a “public nuisance” when the criminal activity goes on for a sufficient amount of time and is known to the hotel or motel owner.

Typical Problems at Budget Hotels and Motels

There are a number of concerning issues that occur at budget hotels and motels, including the following:

  • Calls for police service
  • Disturbances
  • Domestic violence
  • Robbery, burglary, and theft
  • Auto theft and break ins
  • Public intoxication
  • Vandalism and destruction of property
  • Prostitution
  • Drug dealing
  • Physical altercations
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnappings

According to the DOJ, these are the types of issues that could be reduced by better management, design, and overall regulation.

Security Measures That Should be in Place at a Hotel or Motel

Deadbolts, peepholes, door chains, solid doors, solid frames, and working telephones are some of the basic security measures that should be in place in every hotel and motel. Additionally, motels with a history of crime might run into liability issues if they don’t employ an adequate number of security guards, install security cameras, or secure any sliding doors with a bar that prevents opening. The security measures that should be implemented at a given hotel or motel will depend upon the frequency of criminal activity on the property and the type of criminal activity on the property, which brings us back to this issue of the “foreseeability” of violent crime occurring.

What Can You Do When a Loved One Dies Because of Negligent Security at a Hotel or Motel?

The proper cause of action when a loved one is killed because of negligent security is a wrongful death lawsuit. This is a very similar cause of action to a personal injury case, except that the person bringing the claim is the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. In other words, the claim or right to compensation survives, even when the victim doesn’t.

What Can You Do If You’re Injured Due to Negligent Security at a Hotel or Motel?

If you have been injured as a result of a landowner negligent failing to implement reasonable security measures, you may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. Namely, your route to recovery would likely be through a claim for negligent security. These negligent security claims are a way to hold businesses and landowners accountable for failing to provide adequate security at a business property.

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