NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (KGTV) -- Human rights advocates say a National City motel is a hotbed for human trafficking.
In December, a woman was nearly killed at the Rodeway Inn on Roosevelt Avenue. Prosecutors said her pimp was responsible. Police said the woman was stabbed several times and set on fire.
Jeremiah King is now charged with attempted murder, arson causing great bodily injury, and pimping.
Marisa Ugarte with the Bilaterial Safety Corridor Coalition (BSCC) met with the victim.
“[There] were 11 stab wounds, plus… she was set on fire,” Ugarte said. “She was in great pain. The psychological trauma that she has is huge.”
Ugarte said the motel is a problem. “I'm extremely familiar with what is going on. The girls tell me that they've been beaten there,” she said.
The location next to the freeway makes it a popular parking area for truckers, according to Ugarte. It is also near a military base.
The area is familiar to police.
“The biggest concern is that entire area of Roosevelt Avenue has been problematic in National City for years,” said Police Chief Jose Tellez. “It's compounded by the fact that truckers parked there, that were so close to the military installation, [and] that we have hotels there. It’s been well documented that it's one of the tracks used by pimps and prostitutes.”
Following the attempted murder at Rodeway Inn, Team 10 pulled police call records to the location. From January 1, 2018 to February 1, 2021, there were 428 calls for service ranging from traffic stops, drugs, domestic violence, and welfare checks.
“I think like anything, we can work to improve quality of life and that’s what we’re doing on the west side of National City Boulevard,” said Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.
The mayor said there are ongoing improvements and hopes it will cut down on crime. “We've put up cameras, we have more patrols in that area, they've done stings, and as well as we recently removed parking for the big rigs there in that area.
She also said recent funding will help pay for more lighting and road upgrades. “Working class communities like ours do get more of the blame,” the mayor said. “More, I would say, a tarnished reputation, but we are a safe community.”
When Team 10 contacted the Navy about these concerns, a spokesperson said “prostitution and human trafficking are clear violations of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.” He added that the Navy conducts mandatory annual training on the topic.
There is a process to declare certain facilities “off limits” to members of the military, but the motel is not on the list.
On the Better Business Bureau website, one answered complaint from November said the motel is “aware of all the prostitutes (and pimps) that constantly come in and out of there and yet do nothing about it.” That guest checked out early.
When I contacted Rodeway Inn’s general manager, he called what happened in December a “horrific incident.”
Manish Patel said “prostitution [and] illegal activity is not what we want as property owners.” Patel said his employees are trained to spot human trafficking and he said he cooperates with police.
“We're working hard to address this issue,” Chief Tellez said. “It makes it so difficult… that some of these things are unfortunately misdemeanors. It makes it very difficult that it's behind closed doors [and] that a lot of this is happening on the internet.”
Tellez said his department is a part of the Human Trafficking Task Force.
“I'm hoping that in the hearts of the council and the city employees, we can do something about this,” Ugarte said.
King has his next court appearance mid-April.