The Room Key: Discovering Illegal Operations in a Guestroom

It's critical to ensure staff and guest safety while also adhering to guest privacy policies, writes David Hale, VP of business development at Paramount Hotel Group.

Hand hanging 'Do Not Disturb' sign on hotel door

The Room Key is LODGING’s advice column for hoteliers, managers, and team members at all levels of hospitality. Have a question for our experts? Submit it here.


What should I do if I discover an illegal operation out of one of my property’s rooms?

There are inherently undesirable incidents that occur at times in our industry and at our respective properties. We clearly want to do everything we can to ensure the safety of guests and staff while minimizing the impact on operations.

Discovering and responding to an illegal operation (drug sales, sex and human trafficking, fencing stolen property, etc.) that is being conducted out of a guestroom demands alertness by all levels of staff, tact, and, above all, ensuring that we maintain the safety of our staff and our guests while also adhering to guest privacy policies.

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Realistically, although someone at the front desk may suspect illegal behavior on the part a guest, a housekeeper or member of the maintenance staff will often be the person to discover evidence of illegal actions or even possibly personally encounter illegal behavior. In our properties, this individual must immediately notify his or her direct supervisor, who will activate our emergency response system. He or she will also be expected to do whatever is necessary to avoid being placed in harm’s way.

Generally, our next action will be to remove that guest (or guests) from the property as soon as possible, relying on our legal right to enforce a hotel’s established and posted policies and procedures.

These procedures will include notifying the local police department, whose officers may have to execute the eviction, and informing ownership of the situation. Regardless, our managers are responsible for initiating the eviction process so that law enforcement can do its job in conducting an investigation. If we follow established procedures, we will not be subject to charges of discriminatory behavior or false arrest.

Incidents like these reinforce the importance of having strong working relationships with local law enforcement and other local officials. Any general manager new to a property will make the needed introductions to establish rapport and we always encourage local police to a visit a property as part of their routine rounds. Thus, if an event occurs, the officers are already familiar with the property and our staff.

Importantly, we also make sure that our training programs are updated and reinforced appropriately based on any specific incident.

 

Answered by David Hale, vice president of business development at Paramount Hotel Group.

 


The Room Key is LODGING’s advice column for hoteliers, managers, and team members at all levels of hospitality. Experts will answer questions on everything from operations and F&B to finance and marketing. Have a question for our experts? Submit it here.