Police no longer asking embattled motel for guest lists

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WARWICK, R.I (WPRI) – Warwick Police say they’re no longer asking management at the Motel 6 on Jefferson Boulevard to send the department a daily log of guests, but civil rights advocates are still concerned about invasions of privacy.

The motel had been providing the lists, including names, addresses and room numbers, as part of a plan to curb criminal activity there. Over a 14-month period ending in March, police had made 75 arrests, including arrests for sex trafficking and the discovery of a meth lab operating inside a room.

The Rhode Island ACLU blasted the list-reporting practice as an invasion of privacy that it  said was way out of line. “When visitors sign in to a motel or hotel, they expect to be treated like guests and not criminals,” said RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown on Friday.

Warwick’s police chief, Col. Stephen McCartney, said the department had a right to collect the list, because the motel was voluntarily giving it up, and telling customers they were doing it. Yet, Col. McCartney did have concerns: he was worried the list would become public record, and could have legal implications for the department. Consideration of those points led to the end of the daily list exchange.

“I was not personally comfortable because I think it raised issues for the police department in terms of open records. There was still privacy information there,” McCartney said.

However, officers can still go to the motel in person and ask to look through guest records if they have concerns.

And it remains unacceptable to the ACLU’s Brown. “It still creates a serious concern… Guests’ privacy will be invaded if police are able to walk into the motel at any time, take a look at the list, and decide what they want to do with any individual names on it.”

The police have recently stepped up patrols near the motel. Motel management, in turn, is training staff to spot suspicious activity and alert authorities; it’s also hiring more police details.

In a statement, the Motel 6 corporation’s Raiza Rehkoff said they “work closely with local law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of our guests, our employees, and the communities in which we operate.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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