HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A spike in 911 calls to Henrico County hotels and motels has prompted the county to form a task force to take action.
At the Henrico County retreat last week, the police division presented data about the rise in the calls for service to the county’s hotels and motels.
Their data showed since 2018, more than 2,000 calls for service to hotels and motels have been logged in each of the past two years.
Michael Feinmel, the Deputy County Manager of Public Safety, said those police responses were concerning people with high needs like individuals with mental health challenges, substance use disorders, loitering, domestic abuse and neglect and fraud.
“Those calls of service have really been exacerbated by the mental health crisis that the pandemic has caused, but what we’ve also found is that multiple people including families are actually living permanently in Henrico hotels,” he said.
The taskforce said many people were staying in hotels long-term, because of the high cost of housing among many other factors.
The Henrico County Hotel-Motel Task Force formed about one year ago, Feinmel said, but it’s not just a group of police.
It’s made up of about eight or nine people representing building inspectors, police, community revitalization and fire crews.
The Task Force had been studying some of the challenges associated with a high number of police calls to the county’s hotels.
They found that hot spots for emergency calls were concentrated in the east and west ends where most of the hotels have zoning violations, and there are decaying buildings with substandard conditions.
To help reduce the emergency calls for service to hotels and motels, Feinmel said the task force wants to divert people out and change their living situations.
“It’s not a direction of saying ‘Well we want families to be out of hotels or we want people to be out of hotels and be on the streets.’ The goal is to try to provide people with a boost up,” he said.
The boost includes helping people who experience homelessness to become stable, making sure hotels and motels are keeping up with the county’s code and to return problem hotels to its original plan of being short term stays only.
Feinmel added that so far the task force has been doing a lot of data tracking, but in the coming months they’ll ramp up their efforts.
‘We’re looking to connect with out of county entities, non-profit organizations to make this approach more robust,” he said.