Vehicles in parking lots often targeted
oteliers are reporting an uptick in crimes against property and people at hotels amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It seems a week can’t go by without a hotel incident catching the interest of management and police, local hoteliers say.
Early morning Tuesday, July 7, a guest service agent at the Four Points by Sheraton, located on NW Plaza Circle east of I-29 at the airport exit, opened her car door after working the overnight shift to discover the vehicle had been ransacked.
The hotel employee rushed back into the lobby and called the manager on his cell phone to report the incident. The hotel’s video surveillance caught a man earlier fumbling through vehicles in the front parking lot. He was walking from vehicle to vehicle and checking locks, surveillance video appears to show.
After gaining access to multiple vehicles, the suspect enters the front door of the hotel and places a face mask over his mouth before heading through the lobby. Surveillance video shows him strolling down the first floor cradling an armful of stolen property before disappearing into a room.
Brad Verkamp, general manager, checked the rooming list to see who is registered to a room at the end of the hall. Hotel occupancy has been considerably lower due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the report indicates just what the manager suspects-he is not a registered guest.
The manager uses his handheld radio to call his maintenance engineer, who is already meeting with police, to join him at the end of the hallway. Verkamp knocks on several doors and calls out “hotel management” before entering. Each room is vacant and clean.
When he reaches room 150, the hotel key card scans red, signaling the door is deadbolted from the inside. Perceiving a potentially dangerous situation, police draw their guns as the manager uses his key card to override the deadbolt.
Inside the guest room, 27-year-old Jeremy Cummings was braced against the wall in jeans, a t-shirt and electronic ankle bracelet. Hoteliers say he appeared as if he was aware police were closing in on him. Multiple license plates, driver’s licenses and dope were allegedly found on the guest room’s table.
A pair of license plates inside the room lead police to a white Chevy Silverado, parked near the hotel’s generator. The vehicle was recently reported stolen. Cummings was taken into custody by police.
Verkamp, who has worked in hospitality for 25 years, says he will continue to investigate how the suspect gained entry inside the guest room overnight.
Hoteliers say incidents like this have been occurring more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 17, police were called to the Sure Stay Plus Hotel, which is also located along Plaza Circle Drive, after a man was shot inside the hotel. The victim was transported to an area hospital in critical condition.
On June 23, another hotel along the KCI Corridor reported suspicious activity.
Jenifer Goering, director of the Platte County Visitor’s Bureau, said Kansas City Missouri Police and the Platte County Sheriff’s Office have increased patrols along the KCI Corridor due to the rising number of incidents.
Goering said hotels can report crimes against property or people using Textcaster, a mode of communication between hoteliers that instantly sends information via text or email. The system was created by the Platte County Sheriff’s Office to keep everyone informed on incidents as they occur.
“In past meetings with law enforcement–when the area was getting hit hard with vehicle break-ins–KCMO North Patrol and Platte County Sheriff told hoteliers that most break-ins occur with the criminals looking for guns, money or anything that can be sold (electronics primarily),” said Goering.
During those meetings, police urged hoteliers to inform guests and associates against leaving items of value in their vehicles, especially unlocked vehicles, said Goering.
Additionally, police officers offered to generate printed material that could be displayed in parking lots and lobbies warning customers about break-ins. Fearing possible negative effects of a safety/education campaign, hotels opted against printed signage.