DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The police department calls for service log at Daytona Beach’s Sun Plaza Motel on U.S. 1 for the past three years is 17 pages long. The motel only has eight rooms.
Police have been called out, largely in 2020, for overdoses, fights, disturbances, trespassers, vandalism, warrants, shootings and even murder.
Capt. Scott Lee said it’s a little motel with big problems.
“It got so bad that we had two people shooting at each other, had to station police out here after that,” Lee said. “This has kind of been the epicenter of problems in this area. It’s a constant flow, a constant flow of people coming in and out of this property buying and using narcotics. And that has a trickle effect, trickles down to the surrounding people in this community.”
Lee, who leads the Problem Oriented Policing Unit at the Daytona Beach Police Department, said he learned from neighbors about the problems they’re forced to put up with stemming from the motel.
“There are several residential neighborhoods in the south and to the east, and what we’re hearing from people is folks that want to walk the kids to the bus stop, walk to the store and they’re being harassed by people who want to sell them drugs,” Lee said. “We started to see car breaks, thefts occurring, violent crime like the shooting.”
Lee said the POP unit has focused heavily on Sun Plaza during the past few months, spending days and nights there kicking out for good the dealers and users and sending a message that crime will not be tolerated at the motel.
Police said they even arrested the owner of Sun Plaza -- twice now -- because he was allowing the crime to occur.
“We would be summoned to this property and they wouldn’t want to follow through on the acts that they needed to do, like evicting a tenant,” Lee said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, try and restore some normalcy to the neighborhood.”
Lee said similar problems are stemming from the Camellia Motel A1A and as many as half a dozen motels across the city.
“We were looking at a crime data compared to where we were getting complaints and we were starting to see these pockets of problems,” Lee said. “We’re seeing the smaller motels that have doors that are either open to the roadway or an open access area.”
The POP unit is made up of nine officers and was established in 2017.
“The whole idea was we want to take a group of our officers and we wanted to focus on community problems, problems that existed in the city,” Lee said. “We also try to use this other method of looking at it through another lens. So if it’s something as simple as a street light that might stop a problem from repeating, that’s probably a better solution than just making arrests.”
Lee said calls for service to Sun Plaza have dropped.
“Largely what they do is all about relentless follow up,” Lee said. “We could say every time we made an arrest that was a solution and move on to the next one, but it’s really not about that, it’s about making sure we have long-lasting effect.”