A police officer who patrols the Columbus' East Side neighborhood around Motel One testified that the operators of the business seemed unconcerned about the prostitution and drug deals taking place in their parking lot.
“I think they assumed it was happening and just let it happen,” Officer Brian Duke said. “ They turned a blind eye to it.”
Duke was among four Columbus police officers who testified this week in Franklin County Municipal Court during a trial in which the city is trying to have the motel at 3190 E. Main St. declared a public nuisance.
Motel One has been closed since April 19, when Environmental Judge Harland H. Hale issued a temporary restraining order against its owners. The trial, which began today and is expected to last into next week, will determine whether Hale lifts the order or makes it permanent.
The complaint was filed against Helene Steed and her father, Fu Ih Chu, who sold the motel to her in December 2011.
Assistant City Prosecutor William Sperlazza said in his opening statement that drug deals, prostitution, code violations and neighborhood concerns about the property all constitute a public nuisance.
Defense attorney Titus Donnell said his clients are the victims of the motel’s location in a crime-ridden neighborhood.
“They made every reasonable effort to clean up the criminal element,” he said, including installing a security fence, monitoring activity with video surveillance and posting “no visitors” signs. He said the motel operators also corrected the code problems and cooperated with police by allowing undercover drug purchases on the property.
Officer Christopher Boyle testified that he has observed “a dramatic downturn” in criminal activity on the property since the motel closed.
Hale had ordered the motel closed for a year in 2005 because of similar problems with crime. The motel reopened under a permanent injunction aimed at preventing the problems from resurfacing.
By John Futty - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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