County attorney sues motel over alleged criminal activity

This photo of a recent undercover operation at the motel was provided by the Harris County Attorney's Office
May 16, 2013 4:33:55 PM PDT
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has his sights set on a Sharpstown hotel which he says is a haven for prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers. The Plainfield Inn is located on the Southwest Freeway.

Ryan filed a lawsuit against the motel, demanding the management take steps to prevent the kind of prostitution that police say is happening right around the motel every day. But the question is, will the lawsuit make a difference?

Undercover police video taken on Plainfield Street in Sharpstown -- an area known nationally as 'the track' -- shows groups of women who police say are prostitutes approaching cars right in the middle of the street.

"They come here and in the morning time we find the condoms everywhere," said local business owner Mohammed Atuin.

Police say some prostitutes and johns use the Plainfield Inn for illegal activity.

"It's open and notorious and it's got to stop," said Assistant Harris County Attorney Laura Cahill.

The county attorney's office has filed a lawsuit against the motel, demanding extra security. Manager Roger Patel says he has already taken steps such as installing security cameras and putting an end to hourly rentals.

"They're going to look for scapegoats," Patel said. "If somebody gets dropped off down the road, they're going to say she came from the motel."

Houston police say they've made 28 arrests at the motel over the past two years. And it's not just prostitution -- it's aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, cocaine delivery.

"It's the spillover of crime," Cahill said. "That's obvious because what we've got here -- aggravated assaults, aggravated robberies -- you have innocent people in the wake of all of this that are being affected."

Still, the motel manager isn't sure extra security will stop the crime here.

"Can't tell who you rent to. It just takes one bad apple," Patel said.

Business owners in the area are putting up fences, as a barrier to try to make sure that kind of illegal activity isn't happening in front of their businesses.

The lawsuit was filed as part of a joint effort on the part of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and the Greater Sharpstown Management District to abate nuisances in the Sharpstown district. Since the program was initiated, three after-hours clubs have shut down, a receiver has been appointed over a gang-infested condominium complex, two convenience stores are under a permanent injunction, several businesses are under temporary injunctions awaiting trial, and a trial is scheduled for May 28th against at least a dozen members of the notorious street gangs known as the "Bloods" and the "Crips."

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