‘Havens for illegal activity’ — Why Toms River is cracking down on motels
TOMS RIVER — Law enforcement has been called to the Red Carpet Inn more than 700 times over the past two years.
A number of hotels and motels in the township are considered "havens for illegal activity," according to assistant township attorney Anthony Merlino.
So new rules, in effect this week, aim to cut down on the number of no-questions-asked check-ins that have paved the way for untraceable narcotics transactions and other unlawful acts.
"For the most part, hotels are regulated at the state level, but the state really only concerns itself with whether the hotel is fit for occupancy from a structural standpoint," Merlino told New Jersey 101.5. "The state ... does not actively monitor who's coming in and out of the hotel."
Under the ordinance, approved by township officials in November, hotel and motel operators are required to get proper identification from individuals booking rooms. The renter's information must be recorded electronically in the hotel's registry, along with his or her phone number, license plate number, and vehicle make and model.
The name and address of every guest must be written legibly as well. The registry would also note the time of the booking and the number of the rooms booked.
Guests are prohibited from staying for fewer than 12 hours or more than 90 days.
The ordinance states law enforcement can inspect hotels and motels at any time to ensure the registry requirements are being followed.
With the updated rules, Merlino said, police will have an easier time following up on suspected illegal activity. Most importantly, he added, law enforcement's services may be needed less frequently if these strict record-keeping requirements act as a deterrent to bad actors.
Merlino said there are some hotels and motels in town that don't care much about their reputation. So keeping track of their guests has not been a priority.
"They just let anybody come and go as they please, just to get money out of it," he said.
Fifteen people were arrested on drug charges during a raid at the Red Carpet Inn on West Water Street in early October. The next month, the township filed a public nuisance complaint that, if sustained in court, could shutter the property for up to a year.
As of Monday afternoon, management at the Red Carpet Inn could not be reached for comment on the new rules.
In late November, 10 people were arrested on drug charges at the Americana Motel along Route 166.