Local inn is included in '20/20' report on lax hotel security

October 09, 1992|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

The Holiday Inn at the Inner Harbor in the 300 block of West Lombard Street, is featured tonight in a "20/20" investigative report about lax security practices at hotels across the country that leave travelers, especially women alone, vulnerable to criminals.

In the episode, ABC producer Allan Maraynes walks up to the hotel's front desk, claims he has lost his key and, without being asked his name or for identification, receives a key to a room that a female colleague had checked into earlier in the day. The ABC crew also interviewed two women who said they had been raped several years ago, while staying at the hotel.

The "20/20" segment features hotels in other cities as well, including one in La Jolla, Calif., where a man forced his way into a room and repeatedly stabbed an elderly man while his daughter frantically tried to call for help. The front desk had shut down at 10 p.m. The news crew also was able to get a room key at an Atlanta hotel where Mr. Maraynes claimed to have left his key in the room when he went out jogging.

As part of the Baltimore segment, the "20/20" crew brought back to town two women who reported being raped in their rooms at the Holiday Inn in similar incidents: A man called their rooms, said he was a hotel worker who needed to check something in their rooms and arranged to be allowed in. Correspondent Tom Jarriel interviewed a man, now serving 40 years in a Maryland prison, who showed how easy it was to dial various rooms from an in-house phone until he found a woman by herself.

Mr. Maraynes said the rapes occurred in the late 1980s, but Baltimore police were not able to confirm the crimes in an initial search of its records. (The "20/20" segment does not name the women or the imprisoned man or provide exact dates.) The Holiday Inn management has changed since that time, and would not comment on specific aspects of the "20/20" investigation because it had not yet seen the show. Dan Peek, an assistant general manager at the hotel, said the current management firm took over in January 1991 and he was not made aware of the rapes, which he believes occurred in 1987, until recently.

Mr. Peek said "a slight lapse" in security allowed Mr. Maraynes to get a key to a room not registered to him.

"Our policy is to ask for a name, see if it matches who is registered there and get I.D.," he said. "We have re-affirmed [to employees] our policy as far as key control."

The news crew visited the hotel about a month and a half ago to see if security had improved since the rapes, Mr. Maraynes said. They found they were able to enter the hotel through a side entrance and thus bypass the front desk and security posts. Outside an elevator, they found a fixture for a security camera, but it was empty; Mr. Jarriel calls out, "Hello, Security? . . . Do you see us?" and gets no response. They proceed to a house phone on a wall, which Mr. Jarriel said can be used to dial the rooms directly -- without going through the switchboard -- by someone posing as a hotel employee who needs to get into a guest's room.

"It's a consciousness issue more than a technology issue," Mr. Maraynes said, adding that high-tech devices -- such as the computerized key cards used by the Holiday Inn -- are worthless if hotel employees do not strictly follow security guidelines on handing out keys or cards.

A spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department said he wasn't able to determine if hotel crimes were on the rise because they aren't categorized as a separate category.

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