SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – On Tuesday, Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guerra will ask the council to approve an ordinance that will make it easier to shut down massage businesses that are fronts for prostitution.
The growing number of massage businesses is not unique to Sacramento.
There are around 200 such businesses within the city, but a Sacramento Bee survey of online customer reviews of massage parlors shows that around 30% of them are fronts for illegal activity.
Guerra says that too often means the exploitation of sex workers.
“We have to stop turning a blind eye to the modern-day slavery that’s happening,” he said.
The ordinance allows code enforcement officers to flag violations like poor lighting, bars on windows, 24-hour operations, visibility into the business and unsafe working conditions, all characteristics of illicit activity along with in-house living quarters.
“There are indentured servants living there with no access to family, limited English, many times immigrants and unfortunately no safety net,” Guerra explained.
Police have addressed many complaints in the past, but making a criminal case requires time-consuming and expensive undercover operations and sometimes involves the arrest of massage workers.
Community Against Sexual Harm says that is the wrong approach.
“Having them be the sole way to address this community problem through arrests or that type of remedy is just really unfair,” said CASH’s executive director Terri Galvan.
Code enforcement sanctions would reduce the arrest of involuntary sex workers who can more easily get counseling services without police interaction.
Sanctions against businesses include a two-year loss of a business license.
“We’re going to put it in the pocketbooks of the businesses that are operating illegally and the landlord because what we see is, this is happening in a lot of commercial corridors in the city,” Guerra told FOX40.
The ordinance is not a total solution but adds another tool, along with law enforcement, to address a problem that also has an adverse effect on legitimate massage businesses currently operating in the city.