Some hotels becoming hotbeds for crime in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE - After a woman was shot to death at the OYO Hotel near I-12 Thursday morning, city leaders are speaking out about an uptick in crime in the area.
OYO Hotels are popping up all over the place. There are three in East Baton Rouge Parish. Those locations are attracting crime at an alarming rate, prompting the district attorney and the city-parish to take a closer look.
"When we talk to the officers, and the officers say, 'I've been here 400 times.' We then go back and say, 'let's take a look at it,'" EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore said.
The stats are eye-opening. In 2021, BRPD was dispatched to the OYO Hotel on Gwenadele Avenue 409 times. They responded to everything from 911 hang-ups, to overdoses, suspicious people and shootings. Last year, there were 85 EMS calls, the highest number of at any hotel in the parish.
This year, the numbers continue to grow. In the first quarter, BRPD has already been called to that hotel 114 times.
"With the police department being shorthanded, that even causes more problems," Moore said.
The DA is looking into the data to determine whether there are enough violations to serve a letter to OYO Hotel management. The letter would label that property as a nuisance. The idea is to work with the hotel to help them deter this bad behavior. If the problems are not addressed, the parish can bring them to court.
Janet Brooks recently stayed at an OYO Hotel in Baton Rouge. She says she stayed there for a quick rest but quickly discovered the hotel is a mess.
"We just wanted to get out of there," she said.
She snapped photos of cigarette burns, rusted hardware, missing locks and rodents. Brooks contacted 2 On Your Side after all the red flags she saw inside and in the parking lot.
"Yeah, there were people waiting for someone to come 'bring me my drugs or my girlfriend,'" she said.
Moore, the city-parish and BRPD met with businesses and churches around the hotels recently. They shared their concerns about the activity in the area.
"They were clearly worried that the spillover from the hotels and the people—that appear to have drug issues and are homeless—that are knocking on doors during the day, coming in."
They want the problem fixed. With many spring and summer events planned in Baton Rouge, more visitors are coming. Paul Arrigo with Visit Baton Rouge says it raises new concerns that bad incidents will overshadow the good.
"It's concerning to us because the security of our visitors and our locals alike, we've got to look out for," Arrigo said.
The process won't be easy. Moore says many people are living in these hotels, and they don't want to displace people or move the problems somewhere else.
"It's not only addressing the issue of the hotel, but the issue of that person," he said. "Can we get you help? And unfortunately, we found that people want help only when they're ready."
There are other hotels on the city's radar for being out of compliance. They're hoping to give these places a chance to do better.
Moore wants to sit down with these hotel owners and show them the data so they can see what's going on and contribute to the discussion. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome also plans to send a letter to chain operators to let them know they're having a problem with local operators.
This isn't the first time the city and district attorney have tried something like this. In 2020, a WBRZ 2 On Your Side investigation showed you how the city's using similar tactics to target problem apartments in Tigerland.
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