City officials and Las Vegas police recently closed the Oasis Motel, primarily for being a haven for drug and prostitution activities. But other downtown motels may find themselves in trouble, too.
For about two years, police and city business licensing officials have been working the troublesome parts of downtown, including the area of Las Vegas Boulevard north of Sahara Avenue where the Oasis is.
The Oasis has three claims to fame. It was the site of the 1998 death of poker player Stu Unger, caused by heart failure from drug use and a heart condition. Television actor David Strickland of “Suddenly Susan” committed suicide by hanging himself in Room 20. And it’s notorious for being a place where drugs and prostitutes are easily accessed.
“Drugs are a bigger problem than prostitution,” said Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin, who represents the area.
He said during a recent briefing police provided about 15 pages of citations involving drugs and prostitution at the Oasis, which has been owned since 1989 by John Napoli.
The task force including police, licensing, code enforcement, health and fire officials checks out the properties as a team.
Sgt. Christopher Curtis said, “The misconception is that we’re trying to shut businesses down. We’re just trying to get them to comply.”
That takes a long time, since businesses are given time to fix their issues.
“With my team, there’s no way to do more than three at a time,” Curtis said.
Karen Duddleston, the city’s business licensing manager, said the city has been working with the Oasis owner for about two years on the frequent arrests there for drug and prostitution violations. On Oct. 18, police filed a third complaint alleging the Oasis was a chronic nuisance.
As of Nov. 1, authorities said the people who are already staying can remain, but no one new can check in. On Election Day, a car blocked the entrance so no one could drive in.
I recently toured the nearby Naked City, aka Meadows Village, with former TV reporter Scott Andrus. He heard about the action taken against the Oasis and went there Nov. 2. He drove into the parking lot and spoke for a few minutes with someone he recognized from his visits to the area.
As he drove out of the parking lot, two police cars with three officers stopped him, certain he was there for either drugs or prostitution, a natural assumption based on the motel’s reputation. Andrus said he was detained in handcuffs for two hours before he was released .
I see the Naked City area as a sad area that has had the same problems since I first moved here in 1976. But Coffin and Curtis, a 20-year police veteran, are more optimistic.
So are folks like Briana Mackey, a volunteer with Casa de Luz, which has been working within the neighborhood for three years.
“I have seen a marked improvement in the neighborhood and the lives of the people who call Naked City home,” she wrote me in an email. “Hope has moved into this neighborhood, and it is no longer fair to characterize it as bleak and crime-ridden.”
I have to differ with that, especially when someone was eager to sell me drugs there recently. And the boarded-up apartments certainly looked bleak. But I don’t want to rain on the parade of people willing to help.
On Saturday there was a resource fair at the Stupak Community Center, designed to offer resources for specific issues, including money management, health services, community safety, youth activities and adult education.
“So many things are happening downtown,” Curtis said. “And they’re having a net positive effect.”
I hope he’s right.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison.