Around midnight on a recent Friday, a dreadlocked man wearing diamond earrings and a blue tie walked up to the National Lodge, a motel in East Oakland, and inquired through a bulletproof window about a room.
The computer showed 12 vacancies. The parking lot was nearly deserted. But the manager, Hiral Patel, whose father owns the motel, told the man he had no rooms available.
“Come on, man, that's what you said last time,” the man argued. “I got money now.”
“Last time he was here, he had four girls with him,” Patel said, after the man had walked back to the street. “And he's dressed like a pimp.”
The police say the National Lodge and several other motels in the area have long attracted the pimps and prostitutes who line International Boulevard, also known as the Track. Pimps sometimes operate out of motel rooms, keeping an eye on the girls on the street. Prostitutes use the rooms for customers or to take a shower and nap before returning to work. The activity lures violence.