The fight against crime in Market Street hotels continues

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The Ramada Inn is one of several hotels off Market Street prosecutors are targeting in a local crime-prevention effort. Photo by Ben Schachtman.
The Ramada Inn is one of several hotels off Market Street prosecutors are targeting in a local crime-prevention effort. Photo by Ben Schachtman.

WILMINGTON — The Ramada Inn has joined the list of Market Street hotels that have entered into a consent judgments with the district attorney’s office. A total of three hotels have entered judgments this year as part of an ongoing effort to prevent a pattern of crime and violence that prosecutors say, has plagued many hotels along Wilmington’s Market Street corridor.

The hotel, located at 5001 Market St., has entered into a consent judgement with the district attorney’s in response to a lawsuit filed by the state Monday morning by the state of North Carolina that alleges the hotel property was operating as a public nuisance, according to a notice from District Attorney Ben David. In the agreement, the owners of the Ramada Inn have agreed to make several changes to how they conduct business.

The agreement includes: Requiring all guests to present a photo ID and matching credit card with the same name; requiring all guests to complete a registration card for all vehicles and display a parking pass inside those vehicles; keeping a hotel guest registry available for law enforcement; undergoing an inspection by the fire marshal to ensure health and safety compliance; and training to teach employees how to detect signs of human trafficking.

In addition, the owners, Viphinbhai Patel and Rakesh Patel, have already taken measures to install more than 30 video cameras on the hotel property, which will be available for viewing by law enforcement at any time they request it, David said.

Although a restaurant is allowed inside the hotel, and that restaurant may serve alcohol or have a bar inside it, the property is not allowed to have separate lounges or nightclubs or other similar businesses inside the hotel that could attract large or unruly crowds of people, David said.

A banquet facility is allowed, but under this judgment, any permits for alcohol within that facility will need to be obtained by the person renting the space and not by the hotel.

“This Consent Judgment applies to the current owners of the property individually, but it will also be filed with the Register of Deeds Office so that it will be permanently attached to the actual property, in the event that it sold or otherwise changes ownership,” David said.

The district attorney’s office, in conjunction with the City of Wilmington Attorney’s Office and the Wilmington Police Department have been working for more than a year in effort to clean up problem hotels along Market Street.

Two other Market Street hotels – the Budgetel Inn and Red Carpet Inn – entered into an consent judgment with the district attorney’s office in July,  and agreed to make similar changes to their hotel properties. Authorities hope will promote a better environment at the hotels, as part of an ongoing crime-prevention effort at hotels and motels along the Market Street corridor.

The actions were announced during a press conference in December 2015, when David said his office would be pursuing cases against several hotels plagued by drugs, prostitution and violence. His announcement followed a fatal shooting inside a hotel room at the Carolinian Inn off Market Street on Nov. 29, 2015.

The district attorney’s office and the police department joined forces with City of Wilmington Attorney’s Office to address the elevated pattern of criminal activity along the Market Street corridor.

“I am hopeful that this action by the owners of the Ramada today will be another step towards turning this specific property around and to making the Market Street corridor an area of town where people can come and feel safe and enjoy everything that the City of Wilmington has to offer,” David said following the order entered by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jay Hockenbury on Monday morning.

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous added, “We have already seen positive changes in some of the Market Street hotels during this process, and we are looking forward to seeing additional improvements.”

The police department will continue to focus on other problem hotels and follow up on those hotels already in agreement, to be sure they are adhering to the order and taking the steps necessary to turn the properties around, Evangelous said.

The district attorney’s office will now be proceeding with an action involving The Carolinian, one of the two remaining hotels that was originally notified last year that the property was operating as a nuisance.

“This particular property has been a blight on our community for some time. We are hopeful that the owners will decide to follow suit and agree to make corrections to turn this location around, but if they do not, we are prepared to proceed in court in the near future,” David said.