The city of Wichita has filed court papers seeking to shut down another South Broadway motel it says is burdening police and other emergency resources with high crime rates and 911 call volumes.
The motel’s owner says he is working to make things better and that many of the calls are from the hotel asking for help.
Over a 27-month period starting Jan. 1, 2019, local authorities have responded to 884 service requests at the Trail Motel, 827 S. Broadway, for incidents ranging from medical calls to sex crimes, city lawyers wrote in a petition asking for permission to padlock the property for two years to curb illicit activity.
In all, the Wichita Police Department has logged 73 violent incidents at the address during that time period including rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults and batteries, the petition says.
The rate of drug sales, drug possession and other drug crimes also “is very high,” with at least 100 incidents reported over the 27-month period.
In one case from last year cited in the document, a man suffering from a drug overdose was standing naked in front of the motel “screaming that he had a rat in his stomach.”
In another, a 17-year-old suspected overdose victim was found “unconscious with his pants down.”
On several occasions in 2019 and 2020, undercover officers bought crack cocaine and narcotics out of Trail Motel rooms while others found methamphetamine, marijuana, drug pipes, cash, digital scales and plastic baggies for packaging drugs as they served search warrants, the petition says.
The address also “harbors sex traffickers,” “is a common place for female prostitutes to congregate in looking for customers,” is littered outside with trash and debris, and has failed to follow an abatement plan that encourages pre-screening tenants and banning drugs and unregistered guests, the petition says.
In short, the Trail Motel “is a common nuisance,” the city contends.
“(It) is a place where violations of laws regulating controlled substances are habitually committed, violent crime occurs, and police call volume is unusually high,” the petition says of the motel, which offers nightly and longer-term rentals on a stretch of Broadway just south of Kellogg where neighboring Afton Motel and Country Side Inn have previously been deemed nuisance properties.
“The location of 827 S. Broadway is a drain upon police resources and has become a danger to the community.”
A Sedgwick County judge is set to hear arguments in the case on Monday. The city is seeking the abatement under its nuisance ordinance and an injunction that would prevent motel owners Samir and Sneha Shura from using it in any way “which constitutes a common nuisance.” It also demands the Shuras pay a $25,000 fine plus the city’s court and attorney costs.
In a phone interview with The Eagle, motel owner Samir Shura said he has been working with police to address problems at the business for more than a year and was caught off guard by the city’s court filing. He has owned the property since September 2000.
“It’s slightly unfair,” Shura said of the petition. “We have already taken steps.”
He said he feels like the city is “basically blaming us” for difficult-to-control crime caused by people who live or loiter in the surrounding neighborhoods or those who move from property to property in the area.
He said a lot of the police calls mentioned in the city’s court filing have come from the motel asking for help removing problem people who don’t belong at the address.
When he gets information from the police about tenants who are drug dealers or prostitutes “we kick them out” within days, Shura said.
“But that person is not being taken care of by the city of Wichita or the police department, and you find that person still hanging around the property or in the neighborhood,” he said, adding that the motel has exterior lighting and security cameras that the authorities can access when they need to.
Trash and debris including broken TVs and furniture outside of the motel are also issues, he acknowledged. But he said a lot of it isn’t left there by people renting rooms, although the motel takes responsibility for removing it.
“There are times I may fall behind for a few days. But it’s an ongoing battle for us.”
He also said he’s taken steps to clean up rubbish left in the alley adjacent to the property and has contacted the city several times to help haul it off.
“We’re not defending ourselves. We’re not even going against the city or police department. We want to make things better,” Shura said.
But “we feel like the police are using the wrong method going after the people that are actually trying to follow the law.”