Hometown Inn reopens under watchful eye of law enforcement

FLINT TWP. — When police say they are keeping an eye on the newly reopened Hometown Inn, they mean it literally.

High-definition video cameras installed throughout the premises of the longtime trouble spot at 3277 Miller Road, now allow township police to monitor its activity from feeds to the police station.

The surveillance cameras and police access to them were among a list of upgrades required by the Hometown Inn before being allowed to resume business.

The Hometown Inn was shut down February 26 by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who obtained an injunction while seeking a court order to padlock the business for one year due to numerous criminal incidents including the shooting of a township police officer in January, an extensive history of prostitution, armed violence, domestic violence and drug trafficking and use.

But an agreement reached just before the March 9 court hearing allowed the Inn to reopen after three months, if owners met specified conditions, including:

• Correct code violations cited by township officials on Feb. 12.

• Permit the Flint Township Police canine unit to check the premises for drug activity at any time, day or night, without advance notice and conduct room searches, if needed.

• Provide 24-hour security guards until the end of September after which may be reduced to dusk to dawn patrols.

• Install high resolution, high definition video surveillance equipment in the lobby and common parking areas and to keep recordings for at least 30 days for access by law enforcement.

• Evaluate and install exterior lighting to facilitate clear video surveillance images.

• Require future guests and visitors to provide a driver’s license and license plate number at check-in and to make information available to Flint Township Police on request. Guests also will be required to park facing inward only to allow visibility for police to check plates.

• Maintain a do-not-rent-to list of people known to conduct disturbances on the premises and to allow Flint Township Police to add names to that list.

• No subleasing, meaning that the person who rents a room can’t rent it to someone else.

• Post signs conspicuously notifying guests that the premises is under video surveillance.

• Install security gate at front entrance activated by access cards similar to room keys

• Close entrance off Claude Avenue at the southeast portion of the property, in accordance with fire codes.

• Erect perimeter fencing of sufficient height and construction to prevent pedestrian foot traffic from access to three abutting businesses.

• Not allow in-county residents to stay longer than seven days except with proof of extenuating circumstances such as a need for temporary shelter due to a house fire.

• Immediate expulsion, without refunds, of guests found engaged in criminal activity or other violations.

A sign posted last week on the front office of the 119-room Inn indicated that it has reopened for business.

Leyton said that he and Township Police Chief George Sippert personally toured the premises on April 27 with a checklist to ensure that conditions had been met, before giving the green light for it to reopen.

“They reopened sooner than I thought they would,” Leyton said. adding that Inn owners also made landscaping improvements that were not part of the court order.

The entrance to the premises from Claude Avenue has been closed off and is only accessible to the fire department, Leyton said. Perimeter fencing has been installed to control pedestrian traffic to and from the premises.

Images from the surveillance cameras are crystal clear. The cameras are trained on the driveway to capture the license plate number of all vehicles entering and exiting the premises.

About 35 people who were permanent residents at the Inn were relocated in March during the shutdown.

Township Police also already has made one unannounced visit to check on things, Leyton said.

He said his office would maintain jurisdiction over the Inn for the next year and can shut them down immediately if there are any slip-ups.

“The criminal element has been removed and I am hopeful that the Hometown Inn will not allow it to return,” Leyton said.

The Hometown Inn’s legal woes appeared to have influenced similarly troubled businesses that Leyton has been keeping an eye on.

“Other places seemed to have cleaned up their act,” he said.

After the year is up, Leyton said he would have to file a new lawsuit if the Hometown Inn reverts to its past practices.

The Complaint for the Abatement of Statutory Nuisances in 67th District Court, he filed in February, seeking to padlock the Inn, cited at least 40 incidents at the Inn since January 1, 2013, for which police were called.

Leyton said he is sure the Hometown Inn is a safer place now.

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