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Judge Shuts Prostitution-Plagued Oakland Motels

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The National Lodge is one of three hotels sued by Oakland over prostitution claims. (CBS)

The National Lodge is one of three hotels sued by Oakland over prostitution claims. (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A judge has issued tentative rulings that shut down two Oakland motels that authorities say have been centers of prostitution and the sexual exploitation of minors.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte issued her rulings against the Economy Inn at 122 E. 12th St. and the National Lodge at 1711 International Blvd. earlier this week.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

The rulings came after a series of hearings at which community members, police officers and neighborhood advocates testified that the businesses had long histories of allowing and profiting from prostitution, including child prostitution.

The motels are located along “the track,” an area along and near International Boulevard that authorities say is known for prostitution and the sexual exploitation of minors.

The city of Oakland sued the motels in December 2010, alleging that under state law, hotel and motel owners are responsible for preventing prostitution on their properties.

Harbin-Forte issued preliminary injunctions against the motels last October requiring them to make improvements to security but police and neighbors said prostitution and crime continued.

Officials with the motels were scheduled to return to court on July 3 for a compliance hearing.

Harbin-Forte ruled this week that the motels present a severe nuisance to the community and the nuisance likely would continue unless they are closed.

Her rulings close the motels for one year, the maximum amount of time allowed by state law. The motels are to close no later than July 31.

Harbin-Forte also ordered the owners of both motels to pay $45,000 in fines as well as the city’s legal costs and police investigations related to the cases.

Managers at the Economy Inn and the National Lodge declined to comment Friday on the judge’s rulings.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement, “I am very pleased with Judge Harbin-Forte’s tentative decisions. Shutting these hotels will make a tremendous difference for families and businesses in the neighborhood.”

Parker said, “I know the neighborhood, I’ve marched in the neighborhood, I frequent businesses in the neighborhood, and I’m horrified by what I’ve seen there.”

She said, “Closing the businesses for a year is a drastic step, but it was necessary. We hope it will give them time to make necessary improvements and come up with a business plan that doesn’t rely on prostitution as a main source of revenue.”

Parker added, “People should not have to walk a gauntlet of prostitution every time they leave the house. Kids should not have to be harassed by pimps or exposed to human trafficking as they walk to and from school.”

She said the city of Oakland “will not allow businesses to make a living from the abuse and exploitation of women and girls in our community.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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