The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.
Targeted Aurora Avenue motels avoid closure, still face crackdown
Posted by John de Leon
-- By Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green:
The owners of five Aurora Avenue motels being targeted by the city because of problems with crime, tax violations and failure to pay utility fees came up with the money this afternoon to keep the properties in business, said a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.
Power was to be cut to the motels at 5 p.m. today before the owners wrote a check for more than $11,000 in utility fees, according to Alex Fryer. Before the fees were paid, police officers and city outreach workers visited the five motels, offering motel residents vouchers and relocation assistance. More than 30 people have taken the city up on its offers, said Fryer.
The city is still cracking down on the motels for failure to pay taxes and other violations, Fryer said. In addition, the city is working to revoke the business licenses for all five motels, he said.
Since 2005, Seattle police and officials from the City Attorney's Office have attempted to get Dean and Jill Inman to clean up their properties, which are known hangouts for drug dealers, prostitutes and other shady characters, according to the city.
"They're well aware of the problems on their properties. It's no secret, especially when you look at all the police reports for drug use, prostitution, assaults and robberies," Fryer said. "The problems are well known, not just to the owners but to the neighbors and other business owners" located near the Inmans' motels.
According to a news release, the City Attorney's Office filed 152 criminal charges for various tax violations against the Inmans last week. One motel manager was also criminally charged for failing to comply with laws requiring motels to make copies of identification for guests who pay in cash, the release says.
Last year alone, there were 460 calls for police service to the five motels, the release says. Those calls were broken down by motel:
- Wallingford Inn, 4453 Winslow Place N.: 82
- Fremont Inn, 4251 Aurora Ave. N.: 110
- Isabella Motel, 4117 Aurora Ave. N.: 31
- Italia Motel, 4129 Aurora Ave. N.: 80
- Seattle Motor Inn, 12245 Aurora Ave. N.: 160
In April 2008, Seattle police arrested 32 people at the various motels, according to the news release. During a 16-day period that month, police also seized 42 grams of cocaine, nearly 12 grams of marijuana, four drug scales and other drug paraphernalia, the release says. Robberies and assaults have also occurred on the Inmans' properties, the city says.
The city has yet to determine how much the couple owes in taxes.
Though it's "difficult to ascertain" living conditions at the motels, Fryer said police reports provide a grim picture: "Not a lot of hygiene, not a lot of care. It doesn't sound like The Four Seasons, no," he said.
A call to the Inman's Bothell home this afternoon went unanswered. Their voice mail system indicated that their in box is full and so no message could be left for them. But according to public and court records, Dean Inman, 38, is listed as a debtor in at least five tax warrant civil cases in King and Snohomish counties since 1998.
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