Paul Blake says his memory turns foggy more often than it used to. But a few seconds from a night in March 2006 stand out as if they just happened.
Blake, then 70, was working a night shift at the front desk of the Executive Inn on Anderson Road. It was 4:30 a.m., and he had gone to a back room to fetch a set of towels for arriving guests. When he rounded a corner walking back to the lobby, an intruder awaited.
"A guy hit me with a 9-millimeter upside of the head and knocked me down," Blake recalled last week from his home in Rock Hill. "Every time I tried to get up, he'd knock me down again. Finally he knocked me out."
Blake has made a decent recovery, aside from occasional short-term memory loss. Now, at the 180-room motel where he used to work, police and neighbors are hoping for a different kind of comeback.
After steady complaints about drugs, prostitution and nighttime violence -- culminating in the near-fatal robbery on Blake -- police have ratcheted up efforts to combat crime at the inn.
The motel owner, Punam Patel of Rock Hill, also took action. He put up fences to limit access and installed new outdoor lights. And he has told his clerks to keep in close touch with officers so that mischief is quickly reported.
There are signs the effort is succeeding.
Last year, police were called to the motel 482 times -- an average of more than once a day for incidents ranging from suspected drug dealing (41 calls) to trespassing (14 calls) and escort activity (four calls).
This year, the number has dropped to 413 calls through this week.
Police credit Patel's cooperation, along with attention from the department's new street crimes unit and closer monitoring through the Comstat computer program.
"Because of their help, we're getting everything under control," said Patel. "Usually they (police) know more than we do."
The increased vigilance came after a string of troubles at the motel, located across from the Rock Hill school district offices. Among them:
• In July 2006, a 58-year-old woman told police she was watching TV with the door open when three men walked in and stole $140. One man put a gun to the woman's head but did not hurt her.
• In July 2004, a Fort Mill couple answered a knock at their room door around 10:10 p.m., believing a clerk was delivering towels they had requested. Instead, two men forced their way in and stole a cell phone and the wife's purse.
• In January 2002, police found a 13-year-old girl drunk in a room with three men. Police said the men, ages 17, 28 and 40, may have given her alcohol and drugs. The girl had been reported as a runaway by her father.
Once a different place
It wasn't always this way. The motel used to be a Holiday Inn and was considered among the nicest places in town during its heyday in the 1970s.
Back then, businessmen, civic groups and families filled the rooms. The motel's popularity peaked in 1977 when hundreds of Shriners rented the entire complex for a state convention.
But as newer motels opened and developments popped up elsewhere, the motel's reputation slipped. It began renting rooms by the week, attracting transients rather than tourists. Today, rooms cost $35 for a night and $170 per week.
Blake and some neighbors say it has become the new Red Coach Inn, a now-demolished motel near downtown that earned a reputation for drugs and prostitution. The city bought the Red Coach in 2005 and tore it down to make way for a future townhouse project.
Meanwhile, the transients who once rented rooms at the Red Coach went looking elsewhere. Blake said guests told him they had come to the Executive Inn because the Red Coach was no longer an option.
"The clientele from there came flying," Blake said.
In moving to get a handle on the problem, Rock Hill police relied on Comstat, a software program that crunches numbers and tells officers when and where certain crimes are occurring. The department also used the street crimes unit, a roving team of officers who focus on hot-button issues.
This year, fewer drug cases are being made at the motel, says Marvin Brown, commander of York County's drug unit. But that doesn't mean the dealers have gone away.
Similar to when the Red Coach Inn closed, Brown says trouble simply goes someplace else.
"I guess we heated them up, and most of them moved to another location," said Brown. "You start hitting a spot real heavy, and they'll move. And we go on to the next motel."