The Coast News Group
— City Council approved the city’s five-year financial forecast at its Feb. 5 meeting, which projects a general fund surplus of $1.31 million next year. Photo by Samantha Nelson

New city strategy to target crime at ‘budget motels’

OCEANSIDE — The mayor and another council member want to reduce crime at the city’s “budget motels” as soon as possible.

At council’s Aug. 21 meeting, Mayor Peter Weiss and Councilman Ryan Keim requested to direct staff to develop a strategy within 60 days to reduce crime and improve management at Oceanside’s budget motels.

According to Keim, a former city police officer, Oceanside has done a “tremendous job” over the last decade in addressing and reducing crime in the city. Even so, he added that the city still has work to do.

“I think this is one of the most important times to keep working and find out what are the issues that are causing Oceanside’s crime, focus on those and find dynamic solutions to address them,” Keim said.

Keim wants to see whatever strategy staff comes up with work as a “partnership” with the motels in which city officials sit down with owners and managers to figure out what the issues are and work to fix them together.

“Hopefully that is all it’s going to take,” he said. “However I’m not naïve and I understand that unfortunately that’s not always going to work.”

Keim also wants to the city to be able to enforce change at these motels when necessary.

“We need to have effective ways to actually implement those improvements,” he told staff.

Michelle Gomez, an Oceanside resident and candidate for the future Oceanside City Council District 4 seat, was enthusiastic about Keim’s proposal.

According to Gomez, she served on the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women & Girls, which focuses on issues of homelessness, domestic violence and human trafficking.

“It’s no secret that motels are breeding grounds for illicit activity including human trafficking, or modern day slavery,” Gomez said.

Human trafficking, which generates about $150 billion per year globally, is one of the world’s fastest growing criminal industries. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security describes human trafficking as involving the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain forced labor or commercial sex from its victims.

Victims of human trafficking are often young girls and women. According to the California Attorney General’s office, of the approximate 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide, 4.5 million are victims of sexual exploitation. Young women and girls make up 98% of sex trafficking victims.

California is considered one of the nation’s worst states for human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline ranked Los Angeles as No. 3 and San Diego as No. 10 for having the most human trafficking calls.

Gomez said directing staff to reduce crime at motels in Oceanside would help to reduce human trafficking in the city.

Council unanimously approved the request. City Manager Michelle Skaggs Lawrence said she believes 60 days is enough time for staff to put together such a strategy, and that staff will return to council with ordinances necessary to pass such a program.