A long-term police investigation found that the soon-to-close Inlet Inn has been a cornerstone of criminal activities downtown, according to Anchorage police Sgt. Mark Rein, head of a Community Action Policing team.
Rein said his team identified four spots they thought might be involved in a spike in downtown crime: Town Square Park, the city bus Transit Center, the Inlet Inn and Covenant House, which serves homeless youth. All four are close to one another. As part of their investigation, the CAP officers interviewed the owners of nearby businesses and watched the area, Rein said.
Inlet Inn, at Sixth Avenue and H Street, proved to be a center for drug dealing, partying, assaults, drunk and disorderly conduct and more, he said. The inn was the subject of 490 calls to the police and fire departments in 2012. Of those, 184 were for drug and alcohol-related disturbances, or other issues that could have been improved with better hotel management.
There was one homicide at Inlet Inn last year, Rein said.
Real estate developer Mark Pfeffer, a principal owner of the building, said Tuesday the hotel will be shut down on Jan. 31 and boarded up until summer. The hotel was operated by a company called K and B Management, with a woman named Boo Lee as its president.
Pfeffer said his co-owners, investors in Augustine Energy Center LLC, finally decided the hotel operator was unwilling or unable to take care of the problems. The manager of the hotel said Tuesday that Lee didn't want to discuss the hotel.
Rein said, in his unit's initial look at downtown crime, "We were surprised Covenant House didn't play as strong a part in the problem as we thought."
"However, Inlet Inn was playing a great part . . . ," he said. "In fact, we were seeing deals going on at the Transit Center and it was apparent to us that the drug stash was coming out of the Inlet Inn. People were flowing from the Transit Center into the Inlet Inn to party and then going back."
"At one point we saw a guy who was later arrested for a murder in Mountain View go into the Inlet Inn, come out with a package, walk to the front of the Transit Center, line up three guys who we knew were drug runners from prior surveillance, and hand three of those guys packages and they went off and started running drugs," he said.
Unlike other hotels, Rein said, Inlet Inn had no security staff and did not control access to the building.
"There was no one to respond if people came in the back door."
Asked if he thought illegal activity from the Inlet Inn might just move to another budget hotel, Rein said he thought breaking up the "vortex of problems in the area" will result in less crime overall.
The hotel, open space at Town Square, easy transportation from the Transit Center and a liquor store nearby all contributed to crime problems, he said.
"Other hotels deal with the problems. They have trained, paid security staff."
Police have told the Inlet Inn management that when it closes, they will work with non-profit groups to help any hotel guests who find themselves homeless, Rein said. "Many of the people staying there are there to party, not long-term residents."
The Inlet Inn doesn't owe any money for unpaid fines, Rein said. Closing the building remedies the situation, he said.
Reach Rosemary Shinohara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4340.
By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA