Adding hotels won't increase trafficking risk, officials say

Law enforcement weighs in during moratorium on new lodging

Posted 8/13/18

Months after an outpouring of concern in several neighborhoods pushed the Centennial City Council to enact a temporary ban on new hotels and motels, law-enforcement officials attempted to allay fears …

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Adding hotels won't increase trafficking risk, officials say

Law enforcement weighs in during moratorium on new lodging

Posted

Months after an outpouring of concern in several neighborhoods pushed the Centennial City Council to enact a temporary ban on new hotels and motels, law-enforcement officials attempted to allay fears of human trafficking tied to additional hotels.

Glenn Thompson, public safety bureau chief for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, responded to the concern that more commercial lodging would increase crime.

“That's not really the case any more than building a bank creates bank robbers or building a residential neighborhood creates burglars,” Thompson said during a recent city council meeting.

Thompson and Andrew Firestine, Centennial's assistant city manager, presented data that showed calls for service to law enforcement for the city's hotels — calculated per room, per year — are similar to calls at two apartment complexes near the hotels. AMLI at Inverness, just outside of Centennial near East Dry Creek Road and Interstate 25, showed about 1.2 calls per room per year since 2016, while an extended-stay hotel showed about 1.4, also comparable to the Days Inn, according to the data.

Any type of development increases demand for law-enforcement service, Thompson said. For new commercial lodging locations, the added workload for the sheriff's office is similar to that of a new apartment complex, he added.

Councilmember Kathy Turley responded that the data suggests if the city had less hotels, it would have less crime. Thompson said the other option would be leaving sites undeveloped.

Craig Tangeman, an investigator with the sheriff's office, told the council law enforcement isn't seeing many trafficking cases in the Centennial area.

Tangeman is a member of the FBI's Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force, which focuses on child sex trafficking. Tangeman defined human trafficking as the act of enticing or forcing another into commercial sexual activity.

“I do believe that trafficking does occur in Arapahoe County and in the City of Centennial,” Tangeman said. “However, I do not believe that building any hotel (or) motel will increase (that) activity.”

The Centennial area already has hotels, and “we're just not seeing the numbers we're seeing in other locations,” Tangeman added.

Trafficking also occurs in cars, parking lots and private residences, and more so in areas with more people, hotels and motels — and along major highways — he said. Higher-cost hotels and motels are rarer targets for activity, he added.

Councilmember Marlo Alston asked why Centennial sees less activity, and Tangeman said his best guess is that traffickers aren't getting as much business here. They're often from other states, Tangeman said.

In 2017, Tangeman investigated two trafficking cases of youths from Centennial, and this year, he had two open cases on youths in Centennial, he said July 9. The cases may not be open at this point, Thompson said Aug. 8.

“Typically, that trafficking does not occur in Centennial,” Tangeman said. “Typically, this is (a minor) on the run, and they get exploited elsewhere.”

Thompson was not immediately aware of any documented investigations where the trafficking activity occurred in Centennial, he said Aug. 8.

At the July 9 meeting, city staff suggested an amendment to the land-development code — which regulates design standards and what types of development can be built where — to require a buffer of at least 150 feet between single-family residential zones and commercial lodging property. That's wider than Centennial's major streets, essentially barring hotels across the street from neighborhoods, Firestine said. The July report said a buffer would ensure an “appropriate transition” between hotels' non-residential design elements and residential areas.

The council recommended talking further about how large the buffer should be.

The city council on March 19 passed a temporary moratorium, or ban, on new commercial lodging applications so the city could study the increase in hotels and how they affect the city.

In the event the city hasn't completed its analysis, council could extend the moratorium past its Aug. 31 end date. City staff recommended a 90-day extension.

Concern began boiling over when more than 150 residents packed a Feb. 22 community meeting near the Willow Creek neighborhood, which sits across South Yosemite Street from a then-proposed extended-stay hotel site near Dry Creek Road.

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