Hotel security will never be perfect. Hotels do; however, have a duty to their guests to provide them with safe accommodations; therefore, it is up to hotels to advance with technology and continuously evaluate security procedures to provide the safest possible accommodations and protect guests from harm due to reasonably foreseeable risks of injury. Although extended Stay America performed a background check on the employee, the key card machine was left unattended at the main entrance. Could they have done more to avoid the incident? KRON 4 & Amanda Brandeis, KXAN report the facts.
Police believe a hotel employee broke into a guest’s room, attempting to sexually assault a woman and stealing a cell phone (KXAN Photo).
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police believe a group of women staying at the Extended Stay America hotel downtown was targeted by a hotel employee. The women were in town for a bachelorette party.
Investigators say the suspect, 28-year-old Valerio Utrera, broke into their room early Sunday morning and attempted to sexually assault one of the women. Police believe he stole another woman’s iPhone.
Surveillance video captured Utrera duplicating a key card to their room, just after 3:30 a.m. Court documents say another employee was sitting in the area but didn’t acknowledge him.
“My understanding of the way the key card machine works is that it tells you the time and how many cards are being made, and who’s making the cards,” said Detective Christina Angeles, with the sex crimes unit. “So that’s exactly how they figured out who the person was that made the key card.”
Investigators went to Utrera’s home and searched him, locating a hotel key in one of his pockets. However, a manager says they had already deactivated the “rogue” key. Police say Utrera denied taking any property.
Angela Galloway, a guest at the hotel, hadn’t heard about the break-in.
“Extended Stay is an enclosed space with security, and so we don’t chain our doors, we just close them and expect everything to be okay,” said Galloway. “That does make it a little more scary. Because [the employees] have access to all that information and can use it, and apparently did.”
Detective Angeles recommends hotel guests find a room on the second floor or higher, saying it’s more difficult to break into those rooms. She advises to make sure all locks work in your room and use the dead bolts when inside.
“If there is somebody that seems to be loitering, or someone who seems to be taking a large interest in you, I definitely would get with the hotel and have one of the employees, maybe another female employee, walk you to your room. Or get one of the security guards to assist you in that matter.”
Melissa Sanchez has stayed at Extended Stay America hotels many times for business and says she’s always alert inside and outside her room.
“Lock the doors right when I get in, every time I get in, automatically lock them,” said Sanchez. “Watch your surroundings, watch who eyeballs you, watch who keeps smiling at you. It’s kind of a scary thing, but as long as I know when I shut that door, my door remains locked when I’m inside.”
The women targeted tell KXAN they left town as quick as they could. They say the experience has been emotional and that they’re still trying to grasp what happened.
A hotel manager says the suspect did pass a background check before getting hired.