Nebraska Avenue motel fined for inoperable security camera
SEMINOLE HEIGHTS - Fines have been levied against the owners of the Orange Motel for failing to follow sanctions imposed nearly eight months ago by the city's Public Nuisance Abatement Board. The board, made up of resident volunteers, has the power to impose fines and close crime-plagued businesses. At a December hearing board, members found the motel to be a public nuisance and ordered its owners, Sunil and Rita Patel, to install a 24-hour surveillance camera on-site. Police at the time said the motel, located at 7800 N. Nebraska Ave., had been a hot spot for prostitution, drug dealing and other crimes. Sunil Patel's attorney told the board in December his client had no knowledge of the problem until informed by the police. The Patels installed the surveillance camera, "no trespassing" signs and added more lighting.In May, Tampa police conducted an undercover operation that resulted in a search warrant and arrests of two men at the motel on drug-related charges. The investigation also revealed that the surveillance camera on one occasion was unplugged and on a follow-up check still was not working. Sunil Patel told board members that the camera had technical problems and was being repaired during the time police officers conducted the drug investigation. "He did provide repair receipts but we were concerned he wasn't acting diligently or being forthcoming in letting us know about this," said assistant city attorney Kristen Serafin. The cameras now, said Sunil Patel, are "up and working." Board members determined that the camera had been inoperable for at least 14 days and levied a total fine of $750, based on a charge of $50 a day for each day the camera was not working. The Patels also were ordered to pay more than $600 for the city's attorney fees and the costs of the police investigation related to the two arrests. Serafin said the motel would remain under the jurisdiction of the board's oversight until January.
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