OAKLAND (KCBS/BCN) – Oakland City Attorney John Russo announced Wednesday that he has filed lawsuits against three hotel owners that he alleges have allowed their businesses to be used as centers of prostitution.
Russo said two of the three hotels are located along “the track,” an area along and near International Boulevard that he said is known for prostitution and the sexual exploitation of minors.
He said those hotels are the Economy Inn at 122 E. 12th St. and the National Lodge at 1711 International Blvd.
The other hotel is the Sage Motel at 4844 MacArthur Blvd, Russo said.
The suits were filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday.
“Certain hotels in this city have allowed and profited from this criminal industry – an industry in which horrific crimes against women and girls are routine,” Russo said.
He said that under state law hotel owners are responsible for preventing prostitution on their properties.
“If owners can’t take even rudimentary steps to prevent their businesses from becoming a danger to the community, we will shut them down,” Russo said.
He said California’s Red Light Abatement Act allows Oakland to sue to close the hotels, seek civil penalties of $25,000 from each individual defendant and recover other damages.
“The City of Oakland, unfortunately, has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a hub for the exploitation of children,” said Oakland Police Department spokeswoman Holly Joshi.KCBS’ Janice Wright Reports:
A manager at the Economy Inn who declined to give his name said he didn’t want to comment on the lawsuit and said “I don’t know anything” about possible criminal activity there.
A receptionist at the Sage Motel said the owner is unavailable for comment until tonight.
John Patel, whose family runs the National Lodge, said the hotel has posted signs saying “absolutely no prostitution,” scans identification cards and takes other steps to try to stop prostitution there.
Patel said, “We’re trying to get rid of the problem ourselves” and alleged that city officials and police have been unhelpful.
Patel said there is prostitution at many motels in Oakland and he believes the National Lodge is being singled out.
Russo said the lawsuits are “a small piece of a broader effort” to fight prostitution and the sexual exploitation of children that also includes the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and other agencies.
He was joined at the news conference by District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, whose Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit is spearheading a comprehensive effort to combat commercial sexual exploitation of minors in Oakland and Alameda County.
O’Malley said, “Oakland unfortunately has gotten a lot of attention for prostitution and the trafficking of underage girls,” but said
the city and county are also taking innovative steps to try to fight the
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