Running a motel on Interstate 35 near Rundberg Lane is not for the faint of heart.
Ralph Gudbaur learned that in the summer of 2008 when he confronted a man he suspected of dealing drugs in the parking lot of the Budget Lodge, where he’d just become the manager: “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Gudbaur, 65, asked. He said the man unleashed a string of profanities, then hit him in the chest so hard that he staggered backward into a wall.
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Dave Harmon has reported and edited for the Statesman since 1995, covering criminal courts, county government, the Texas-Mexico border and the Legislature before joining the investigative team. For a link to his March 24 story about efforts to address crime in the Rundberg Lane area, go to this story online.
Police seek more cooperation among motels
The police who work in the Rundberg area say getting all the businesses along Interstate 35 near Rundberg Lane to come together in sort of a crime-fighting coalition remains one of their biggest goals.
But it’s proven elusive. And no one can seem to agree on why.
The problem is obvious to everyone, including Economy Inn owner Peter Patel: “If I don’t rent to someone, they’ll go to another hotel. That’s why we need to cooperate.”
Police envision a network where all the hotels and motels share information about troublesome guests and create a universal “do not rent” list that they all honor. If someone gets evicted from one motel, he or she is shut out of all of them.
Red Roof Inn manager Matt Franklin says some of the businesses along the highway already do this informally. He said he talks regularly to some of his neighboring businesses and they alert each other to suspicious activity when they see it on each other’s property.
Like several managers interviewed for this story, Franklin said he’d like to see all the motels on the strip band together and communicate regularly. Why hasn’t it happened?
Budget Lodge manager Ralph Gudbaur said some people don’t want to collaborate with their competition, even for something positive. Police say some owners and managers just don’t seem interested — Taber White, an APD district representative, said he still hasn’t been able to reach the owner of one motel to ask.
And others, White said, talk like they want to help reduce crime but do things that attract it — like the two gas stations at Rundberg and Interstate 35 that recently opened smoke shops on their property that sell glass pipes and rolling papers.
Those same gas stations routinely call police to report drug dealers and transients on their property, he said.
“Is that small amount of income really worth it?” he said.