Roswell ponders law to reduce hotel crimes’ drain on police

The Roswell City Council might consider a law to reduce hotel crime in the city. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The Roswell City Council might consider a law to reduce hotel crime in the city. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

A law punishing hotels for generating too many 911 calls could be considered by the Roswell City Council.

The hotel safety ordinance was proposed by Councilman Mike Palermo at a public safety committee meeting Tuesday. He referenced Alpharetta, which passed a similar law in early May.

A Georgia Municipal Association spokeswoman previously said she didn’t know of any cities in Georgia with a law similar to Alpharetta’s.

The law penalizes hotels that burden the city’s police department with a high amount of calls for service. The level of punishment would be determined by dividing 911 calls by the number of rooms in the hotel and placing offenders into three tiers.

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The types of 911 calls that count against the hotel would be things like drug use and prostitution, not fire alarms and medical calls.

For example, the Alpharetta law says that more than 42 calls for service in a year at a 100-room hotel means the business would be required to hire an off-duty Alpharetta police officer for eight hours each night at a cost of $90,000 a year. The violating businesses must install fencing or lighting if needed and could be fined $5,000 each year until the number of calls are reduced.

The specifics in Alpharetta aren’t yet set, but Palermo said he was going to work with Roswell police and the city attorney to determine the tier thresholds. He said one hotel had 571 calls for service in 2018, which takes police away from serving and protecting Roswell’s more than 95,000 residents.

“Unfortunately, we do have some hotels that are absolutely using our public safety resources a lot — to the point where it obviously is causing Roswell taxpayers money,” said Palermo, who gave no estimate for how much these calls cost the city.

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Palermo admitted that the law in Alpharetta “passed with a thin margin.” There, the council approved the law by a vote of 4-3. The trio of opponents said the law was clumsy and didn’t help law enforcement.

Alpharetta’s police chief said that the city has no worse a hotel crime problem than other nearby municipalities. Opponents said the ordinance needlessly besmirches the good name of Alpharetta hotels and puts the city at legal risk.

The likelihood of the Roswell’s ordinance passing isn’t clear because none of Palermo’s fellow council members said they would vote for or against it.

Palermo said he would propose Roswell’s version of the law at a July 9 meeting.

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