The Cobb County district attorney is giving an ultimatum to a hotel in the heart of one of its busiest areas that's known for sex-trafficking and drugs.
District Attorney Vic Reynolds announced that his office has reached a court-approved agreement with the operator of The Masters Inn at 2682 Windy Hill Road that will require the hotel to shape up and get crime rates down.
The hotel will be required to take several steps to tamp down on crime - namely human trafficking. The Masters Inn will have to cooperate with police regarding criminal activity, require photo identification for all patrons, maintain a complete and accurate guest roster, require all staff to undergo training to recognize and prevent trafficking. The hotel would be required to hire at least one licensed guard and install various equipment such as proper outdoor lighting, high quality video surveillance and fencing.
The requirements also includes keeping a "no rent" list of people previously arrested at the location and a strict no loitering policy.
“This case is a great example of law enforcement and prosecutors utilizing every tool available to make sure children will not be sold for sex in Cobb County,” Reynolds said. “I am very proud of this result.”
In both the statement from Reynolds' office and the suit against the hotel, police described the location as a "notorious hotbed of criminal activity that has been the subject of countless investigations."
Only adding to the hotels notoriety was a study done by the nonprofit group Civil Lawyers Against World Sex Slavery (CLAWS) which spotlighted the hotel for the high rates of drug, prostitution and human trafficking crimes on its property.
And, as long as the criminals have somewhere to return, the crime continues. Case-in-point: A highly publicized case in Oct. 2017, where police arrested Anthony Dobson on felony drug charges and soon found evidence that he was holding a woman against her will - trafficking her for sex out of his room.
The woman escaped the imprisonment following Dobson's arrest but refused to cooperate with police out of fear for her own life.
“They’ve been conditioned not to cooperate with police, and to cover for their exploiters,” said Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring. “This type of criminal act goes beyond just being a public nuisance. It is an evil that we are seeking to eradicate in Cobb County.”
And it wasn't Dobson's first time being arrested at The Masters Inn, either. In fact, he had just been taken into custody one month prior on drug charges.
"Although criminals are prosecuted, the crime doesn’t stop as long as they have safe harbor with hotel operators who look the other way," civil attorney Jason Nohr said. "We believe this is the first step in an exciting, creative partnership with the DA’s Office to make a real impact on this crisis.”
Georgia's nuisance laws don't specifically address human trafficking, but in a possible first for the state, Cobb is using the fact that drugs accompany human trafficking to clean up an operation known for both.
The agreement not only brings new requirements for the hotel, it also requires regular compliance hearings to make sure The Masters Inn operators are following through. The first of those hearings is scheduled for March 14 at 9 a.m.
Even if ownership changes, the requirements will still be in place and transferred to the new owners.
“With this result, we can show other hotel owners who may be inclined to allow criminal activity on their property that it’s in their best interest to partner with us and law enforcement in keeping their premises free of drug activity and human trafficking," Nohr said. "Otherwise, they may find themselves in a similar lawsuit.”