Garnet Finchum has a "Do Not Rent" list at the hotel she manages in Dickinson. - Katherine Lymn / Forum News Service
By Katherine Lymn and Amy Dalrymple
Forum News Service
Garnet Finchum’s face says without words that she doesn’t have time for nonsense.
She and husband Dwight manage Dickinson’s Travel Inn, one in a row of plain motels just a couple of turns off of Interstate 94.
Before this, she managed the Tumbleweed Inn in Alexander, N.D. In both Oil Patch cities, she said, participants in prostitution are frequent visitors.
Motel managers in western North Dakota say they're reluctant to rent to single women because of the amount of prostitution they see. Finchum will break the rule if she knows the woman or her employer or if the woman looks “respectable,” she said one night last fall.
On a “Do Not Rent” list of about 60 names kept at the Travel Inn, a quarter of the people are banned for prostitution -- some men for soliciting, but mostly women. The list started strong, typed in a chart. It dissolved into Post-its and scribbles, a pile of people to avoid.
Over her time in the Oil Patch, Finchum has learned the signs, like a woman wanting to pay in cash. She says she can just tell. Other times, she and other staff members scroll through Backpage.com, sometimes matching a face at the reception with a woman in an ad.
At the Vegas Motel in Williston, about half of the 400 names on a similar “Do Not Rent” list are women banned for prostitution, said general manager Jeff Smith.
The motel now requires every guest who comes to a room to register at the front desk, an attempt to deter prostitution, Smith said.
The Vegas accepts cash for payment, with a $100 room deposit. Smith said that’s his policy because a lot of decent people don’t have credit cards.
At Williston’s HomStay Suites, a new policy to require a bank credit card at check-in led to about a 50 percent reduction in prostitution activity, said general manager Judy Carlson.
“We’re trying every avenue to get them out,” Carlson said.
Last February, Carlson came to Williston from a hotel on the eastern side of the state.
“We dealt with it in Fargo, but not on this scale,” she said of prostitution activity in the rooms.
She shares HomStay’s blacklist -- 99 percent of the names are banned for prostitution -- with other hotels in Williston.
Carlson trains her staff to place women from Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Detroit on the ground floor so they can call police if they see lots of traffic to a room.
The pimps themselves are rarely present in the motels and hotels. They might be in a car outside, or even back where the pair calls home, several states away.
Judy Carlson has a Do Not Rent list (73 names since February) at the hotel she manages in Williston, N.D. Most are banned for prostitution. - Eric Hylden / Forum News Service