SHOULD HOTELIERS BE ENFORCERS?

If Houston has its way, the No Tell Motel will be long gone. At least that's the goal of a new rule attempting to rid the city of hotel rooms used for prostitution. In January, the City Council there approved rules banning hotels from knowingly renting rooms for prostitution, even though some members expressed concern that hotel and motel clerks could be held responsible for prostitution they weren't aware of.

According to law enforcement authorities in Houston, some clerks have told police they stay in business by renting to hookers and some police say they have seen the clerks sell condoms or take kickbacks.

A similar move is afoot in Los Angeles, where a proposed ordinance would prevent hotel operators from renting rooms by the hour.

Joan Johnson, president of the Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston, says, “There have been some smaller hotels built in places where the residents who live around them feel they're being used for prostitution.”

Johnson, whose association represents 141 hotels in the Houston area, notes that the ordinance “reads that it will be unlawful to knowingly — and that's the key word — check in a prostitute. They would have to prove that either the owner or front desk person knew they were checking in a prostitute. This is very difficult.”

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