Council suspends Queensway Court Motel's licence

The Queensway Court Motel will be shut down on Oct. 1, after city council unanimously upheld a decision by city staff to suspend the motel's business licence for six months.

In a special meeting on Wednesday night, council considered an appeal by the motel's owner, Soo Hyun Won, requesting the suspension be cancelled or postponed to allow Won to make further security improvements to curb crime at the motel.

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Prince George RCMP Supt. Warren Brown was called as the first witness in the court-like proceeding by the city's lawyer Jarrett Plonka.

Brown said the Queensway Court Motel is "one of the top 10 locations" police are called to in the city.

"From January to June 2016 compared to this year, we've seen an increase in over 100 calls. We've not seen an increase in calls of that rate anywhere else," Brown said. "There was a home invasion there last night. A resident (of the motel) phoned her mother and reported that individuals came in with guns and took money and some belongings."

The concerned mother phoned the RCMP, who investigated and found that not only had the woman been robbed, but several other suites had been victimized or otherwise involved, Brown said.

In May this year a man was shot at the motel in an attempted murder, he added, but the majority of calls involve dropped 911 calls, thefts from vehicles, disturbances, prostitution and drug trafficking. In a three-month period in 2017, RCMP were called to the Queensway Court Motel 188 times, compared to between 36 and 84 times to similar-sized motels and hotels in the city.

Calls to the motel frequently require multiple officers to respond, Brown added, because the phone system at the motel was routed through a central line - making it impossible to determine which room a dropped 911 call came from without canvassing the rooms, he said.

The motel has been on the RCMP's radar since 2016, when concerns raised by area residents promoted police to reach out to Won and offer him suggestions to improve security, he said.

"Any steps taken to date haven't been very effective," Brown said.

By 2017, it had become the local "fishing hole" for police, who would patrol by looking for stolen vehicles and conduct undercover operations to bust drug dealers, he said. A report prepared by two constables at the detachment seeking input from residents and business owners in the surrounding area found that many had stopped bothering to call police, because they'd lost faith that anything would be done, he said.

Won said he and his family bought the motel in 2010 and managed it full time until last year, when his brother took over as resident manager. He said that the situation at the motel went downhill, starting sometime between 2013 and 2015.

"I tried to do my best to deal with it," Won said. "That was not a very good time for my family and me. I tried to sell the motel."

The problems at the motel caused problems within his family, he said, and often he was alone trying to deal with the issues, he said.

Won's lawyer, Jenna Davis, said since receiving the notice from the city Won "immediately took real and substantial steps to fixing the problems."

He installed a new phone system to try to reduce dropped 911 calls, installed three more security cameras -bringing the total number to 10 -installed locked security doors limiting access to the second floor rooms, built a fence limiting access to the parking lot area and attempted, but was unsuccessful, in hiring a security company to conduct regular patrols, Davis said.

"Mr. Won has shown that now, in 2018, he is dedicated to improving the situation at the Queensway motel," she said.

Won and his family rely on the motel for their livelihood and could end up bankrupt if the city suspends its business licence, Davis said.

The result was that between Aug. 1 and Aug. 21, there was a more than 60 per cent decrease in calls to the police compared to previous years, Davis added.

"There is no excuse that this went as long as it did," Coun. Brian Skakun said. "Some of the comments in here in the report are, 'There is noise every night -yelling and screaming..." and so on. I'm not here to give Mr. Won a break, the people who deserve a break are the people in the neighbourhood."

Skakun's comments were echoed by others on council.

"I don't believe Mr. Won is sorry that he's operated an unsightly property," Coun. Terri McConnachie said. "He's not sorry for making the residents of this neighbourhood less safe - not just feel less safe, less safe."

Coun. Murry Krause said city council needs to act to protect the residents of the neighbourhood, and the motel.

"If the residents have lost confidence in the RCMP, I don't want them those residents and neighbours to lose confidence in us," Krause said. "I think this sends a message to landlords. The people who live in accommodations in this city deserve better."

Won and Davis declined to comment on the result of the proceedings.

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