This Washington Post article by gave me pause....
For too long, the Warwick, R.I., Motel 6 had been getting the wrong kind of visitors: Police officers blaring into the parking lot in response to reports of crime.
There have been standoffs with police, kidnappings, domestic violence, shootings and drug busts. In a single week in March, three guests were charged with manufacturing crystal meth, and another was arrested for sex trafficking. Seventy-five people have been arrested there in the past 14 months.
So the motel, a modest spot off of Interstate 95, came to a controversial decision this month: It would start sending its daily guest list to the local police department, according to the Providence Journal.
The policy is one of five new measures intended to reduce crime at the beleaguered budget motel. Motel 6 executives also agreed to expand security coverage, give staff updated safety training, raise the minimum check-in age from 18 to 21 and stop renting rooms to people previously arrested for serious crimes.
Guests won’t be informed that their names are going on a list to be handed to police each night, according to Victor Glover, vice president of safety and security for Motel 6’s parent company, G6 Hospitality.
But police will know exactly who has checked into the motel that day.
“We know everyone who is staying in the hotel tonight,” Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian told the Journal after the announcement.
The new policy raised alarms among civil rights groups, who say it’s an invasion of patrons’ privacy.
“In the absence of some suspicion of wrongdoing, a person on vacation should not expect their private information to be shared with the government in this way,” Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU, said in a news release. “… When Motel 6 says in its ads that they’ll ‘leave the light on for you,’ most people probably don’t realize they’re talking about the light of a police siren.”
So far, it doesn’t seem like the policy will be enacted at other hotels. Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen M. McCartney told WPRI that this particular Motel 6 was a special circumstance: Its low prices drew “undesirable people,” and its proximity to the interstate made for an easy getaway, he said.
Speaking to the Providence Journal, Glover would not specify whether any other Motel 6 locations have the same guest policy, though he said that the hotels usually make their guest lists available to local police when asked for it.
Though it’s not clear how many — if any — other Motel 6 locations are reporting their guests to the police, the chain does seem to feature prominently in news stories about grisly crimes. Last fall, a suspected serial killer was arrested after confessing to strangling a woman in the bathtub of a Gary, Ind., Motel 6. A few months earlier Stockton, Calif., police uncovered an underage prostitution ring at one of the chain’s locations there. Jared Lee Loughner stayed at one the night before his shooting spree in Tuscon, in which he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz).
Statistically speaking, these kinds of visitors probably make up an infinitesimal percentage of guests in the chain’s 105,000 rooms. But they’re the kind that make headlines — and draw attention from police.
In this case, however, the decision to report the names of guests came from the hotel itself. McCartney told the Journal that the new policy wasn’t his department’s idea.
“It was pretty clear that [Motel 6] corporate and the general manager had done an in-depth analysis of their business model and said: ‘What are things we can do to attract the right kind of people here and make sure the undesirable, criminal element doesn’t come?’” he said.
Brown said he’s not sure what legal steps his organization can take to prevent the motel from pursuing the policy.
“Unfortunately once you give the information to the hotel, it’s sort of the hotel’s information and they can do what they want with it,” he told radio station WPRO.
Your thoughts on this? Would you stay at a Motel 6 if you thought your private information would be shared with the police/government? Does this policy make you feel safer or more compromised?
I am not a criminal and I don't have anything to hide, but I don't ever relish the notion of police scrutiny, particularly if I haven't done anything wrong. I suppose one could make the case that the end justifies the means, in that if this policy leads to the prevention and/or reduction of crime it is a good thing. Maybe? Maybe not.