Brad Smith, manager of the Value Lodge Motel on Nicol Street, got some welcome news in mid-February when he was told the city lifted the motel’s nuisance property designation.
The Value Lodge made headlines in October 2009 as Nanaimo’s first hotel to receive a nuisance property designation after police responded to 357 complaints there in 32 months.
Smith was hired to clean up operations and remove problem guests, while property owner PHI Investments renovated the building.
Police noted an immediate drop in calls, but it took Smith more than a year of dedicated work to fully bring the Value Lodge back into the city’s good graces.
Smith has managed other businesses, but this was his first motel.
“It was a big accomplishment because it wasn’t something that was easy to do, for sure,” he said.
Randy Churchill, manager of bylaw services, said nuisance properties are deemed such until their owners prove over time they have dealt with their properties’ issues.
The Value Lodge is one of several motels in Nanaimo that provides daily, weekly and monthly rentals. RCMP Cpl. Dave LaBerge referred to in 2009 as a “…tough crowd we’d rather not have on the street anyways…”
The Value Lodge still provides long-term rentals, but calls for emergency services are now on par with other motels its size in its area of operation.
“Whenever a motel comes under good active management that stays on top of problems, the situation always corrects itself,” Churchill said.
Accommodation providers across Nanaimo are banding together with the city and RCMP to make their hotels and motels more secure and keep an eye on criminal activity that might be happening on their premises with a new program called Accommodation Watch.
Const. Gary O’Brien and Odai Sirri, director of business development for the Grand Hotel, came up with the idea over lunch in February when they met to discuss hotel security by setting up something similar to Neighbourhood Watch programs, but tailored to the accommodation industry.
Previous programs in Canada and the U.S., such as the Crime Free Hotel Motel Program in Mesa, Ariz., started in 1997 to combat crime there, are mostly police-driven and directed initiatives.
Accommodation Watch is being designed, run and maintained by the Nanaimo’s accommodation industry with the RCMP and the city acting as liaisons and consultants providing training in their areas of expertise.
“I think that’s the good thing about this program,” said Cpl. Jake Ryan, of the RCMP’s Community Policing division. “It’s going to be decided by the industry how it’s going to be most efficiently used. The RCMP is just a partner within that forum.”
Police, the city and management from 15 of Nanaimo’s hotels met in March to lay out a framework for the program, but organizers want to bring all of Nanaimo’s accommodation providers to the table to get their ideas and help with planning.
“Some of the initial conversation was around intel sharing and different things they’re seeing in hotels that would help in terms of policing aspects,” Ryan said.
Hotel operators also want to know how to train their staff on what to do if there’s a robbery or if staff find stolen property or a drug lab set up in a room.
The establishment of an online network where hotel operators can share information about criminal activity, missing people and other security and safety issues is being discussed. Accommodation Watch would also host planning meetings to help hotel operators prepare for major events in city that draw hundreds or thousands of people to Nanaimo.
“We’re still are hoping to have more hotel and motel partners come out to these meetings because it would be to the advantage of their businesses and the community,” Ryan said.
The next Accommodation Watch meeting will be at the Grand Hotel May 24 at 1 p.m.