One of the more frightening and potentially dangerous crimes that can occur to a family or business traveler is a hotel room invasion robbery. A hotel room invasion occurs when robbers force their way into an occupied hotel or motel room to commit a robbery or other crimes. It is frightening because it violates our private space and the one place that acts as our temporary sanctuary while away from home. Some travelers never recover from the experience of being assaulted while in a hotel room in a strange city.
Hotel or motel room invasion robbery is like the residential form of an automobile carjacking and it is on the rise. Like the crime of carjacking, most police agencies don’t track home or hotel room invasions as a separate crime. Most police agencies and the FBI will statistically record the crime as a residential burglary or a robbery. Without the ability to track the specific crime of hotel room invasion, little can be done to alert the public as to the frequency of occurrence or devise a law enforcement plan of action to prevent it.
Hotel burglars work mostly during the day and when a room is more likely to be unoccupied. Most burglars work alone and tend to probe a hotel looking for the right room and the right opportunity. Access control systems, good building design, strong locks and doors, and alert hotel staff can often deter burglars. Also, burglars don’t want to be confronted and will usually flee when approached. Most burglaries do not result in violence unless the criminal is cornered and uses force to escape.
Hotel room invasion robbers, in contrast, work more often at night when rooms are more likely to be occupied and less staff is on duty. The hotel room invaders usually target the occupant and room location and not necessarily the hotel. The selection process may include women traveling alone or senior citizens, or known drug dealers, or wealthy travelers, for example. It is not unusual for a robber to follow the victim to their hotel room based on the value of the car they were driving or the jewelry or clothes they were wearing. Hotel room invaders have been known to work casinos and watch for guests flashing large sums of money or jewelry. Hotel room invaders usually work alone or with just one accomplice and they rely on an overwhelming physical confrontation to gain control and instill fear in the room occupants.
The violence occurs instantly with an overwhelming explosive force to take control of the room. The hotel room invaders often come equipped with handcuffs, rope, tape, and weapons. Some hotel room robbers appear to enjoy the intimidation, domination, and violence and some claim it’s a "rush." Some hotel robbers are also opportunist rapist and may sexually assault their victims.
The act of committing a hotel room invasion is escalating much like carjacking. The reason for the increase seems to follow a similar pattern. Much like automobiles, the traditional commercial targets for robbers have hardened themselves against criminal attack. Technology has allowed commercial establishments to install better locks, and other anti-crime deterrent devices.
Guest room robbers have privacy once inside and don’t have to deal with security or hotel staff or other guests who might suddenly appear. Once the offenders take control of a guest room, they can force the occupants to open room safes, locate hidden valuables, supply keys to the car, and PIN numbers to their ATM cards. Guest room robbers will increase their escape time by disabling the phones and sometimes leave their victims bound or incapacitated. It is not unheard of for robbers to load up the victim’s car with valuables and drive away without anyone in the hotel taking notice.
Method of Operation
The most common point of attack is through the guest room door or patio door. Sometimes the hotel room invader will simply kick open the door and confront everyone inside. More common is when the hotel room invaders knock on the door first. The room invader hopes that the occupant will simply open the door, without question, in response to their knock. Unfortunately, many people do just that.
Guest room robbers will sometimes use a ruse or impersonation to get you to open the door. They have been known to pretend to be room service, housekeeping, security, or delivering flowers. Clever room robbers might hold a room service tray or flowers in view of the peephole to further the impersonation. Once the door is opened for them, the hotel room invaders will use an explosive amount of force and threats to gain control of the room and produce fear in the victims. Once the occupants are under control, the robbers will begin to collect your portable valuables.
Another tactic is for a robber to select a victim in the lobby and ride up in the elevator with them. They will get off on the same floor and pretend walk behind you as if going to their room. Once the guest opens their door, the robber will force his way in behind them and make his demand.
The same tactics used to prevent daytime burglaries will go a long way to preventing forced entry hotel robberies. If you can delay a guest room invader at the point of entry then you have a chance of deterring them or calling the police. A solid core door and strong locks with reinforced strike plates will stop most forced entries. See my web page on Hotel Security Tips for more detailed information. Select a hotel room on an upper floor when available. Ground floor rooms are most vulnerable because of immediate access and ease of escape. Guest rooms adjacent to fire stairs are also selected more often by robbers for use in a rapid escape. The weakest hotel security link is the room guest who fails to lock doors or windows or who will open the door without question at the sound of a knock. If you see a suspicious male nearby, let them pass before you open your door or enter the room quickly and lock it behind you.
The best defense against hotel room invasion is education and planning. If you frequently travel to same city on business, select and stay with the same hotel or hotel chain that offers security amenities. Parents should hold a family meeting to discuss how to answer the door when someone knocks. Another important topic is how to act should your room be invaded. Once you know how hotel robbers work, you can effectively prevent most occurrences.
Remember these important security steps:
- Make sure your room has solid doors, locks, and peephole
- Request a room on the third floor or above
- Beware of strange males that exit the elevator on your floor.
Let them exit first and you return to the lobby if suspicious
- Change rooms or hotel if not secure or locks are worn
- Request a room away from fire stairs or end units
- Lock all doors and windows at all times
- Use the door peephole to see who is knocking
- Never use a chain-latch to partially open the door
- Never open the door to strangers or solicitors
- Call the police or front desk if the stranger acts suspicious
- Call the front desk if someone claims to be with the hotel
- Hold a family meeting to discuss hotel room security
Hotel Motel Room Invasion Robbery