A municipal code enforcement sweep at four decades-old motels along Government Boulevard April 11 netted several minor violations and cleared 13 warrants off the books.
Formerly retired Mobile Police Department Capt. Jack Dove led a team of police and municipal code enforcement officers on door-to-door checks of rooms at the Crest, Beverly, Olsson and Bama motels. The sweep resulted in three arrests, Dove said, and the discovery of a number of minor violations from plumbing problems to structural issues. None of the issues were enough for the team to close the motels.
“Most things we’re seeing are related to the fire code, or electrical,” he said. “There are some plumbing issues.”
Other issues included rotten wood, trash and tall grass.
Of the three arrests, one included possession of a controlled substance. The others were because of outstanding warrants, four of which were for felonies. Dove said officers were able to make arrests because they were given permission to search the property by the owners. If there’s probable cause, they can make an arrest.
“It becomes self-evident why we’re doing this,” Dove said. “Whenever you start to see blight and litter, all these things contribute to crime.”
The so-called municipal enforcement task force, which was created by Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Public Safety Director Jim Barber and Police Chief Lawrence Battiste, works every day addressing citizen complaints. When enough complaints come in, Dove said, the city plans sweeps, like this one, to cover a lot of ground in one day.
Another reason for the sweep of all four motels was an issue of fairness, Dove said.
“The police have to be fair,” he said. “If we’re going to run a check on one, we have to run a check on all.”
Residents have complained about these old motels for years. Residents of the Skyline community sent a petition to the city asking it to clean up the Crest Motel in August 2017.
The complaints and issues with the motels have been going on since before Councilman John Williams, who represents the area, was even on the council.
“The reason we can’t do something about it is they are running legal operations,” Williams said. “The city has no right to tear them down. It’s a tough problem.”
He said he understands the complaints, but acknowledged it’s a complicated subject because motel owners have rights and protections under the law, as do the people who live or stay in the rooms.
“People have rights to properties and rights to use the property,” Williams said. “People don’t like it, but it doesn’t change the law. It’s a just law. That doesn’t mean everybody likes it, but it’s right.”
Under normal circumstances, Dove said, municipal enforcement officers go out on their own to write citations or check out complaints. If those officers have issues during a routine inspection, they’ll call him in to investigate. Dove said he has seen a lot since taking on the role in March 2017, including some incredible scenes.
“I walked up on an active meth lab during a call for high weeds and grass,” he said. “They had a sign that said they sold drugs.”
On another case, he said he confronted a junk car with a stolen tag. Dove said the tag belonged to Judge Jay York.
Dove retired from MPD on Feb. 28, 2017, but was rehired to the force on March 3 of that year when the task force was created.
“I spend almost my entire day in the field,” he said.
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