On Friday morning, Nov. 2, the Kent Police Department gave an “unhappy ending” to 18 illegal massage parlors, with notices that they are being shut down.
Police say that this citywide bust was the culmination of a several-month’s long investigation into numerous illegal businesses that were fronts for prostitution activity, which in all cases violated state and city licensing requirements.
“With the posting, the city has sent a strong message to these illegal operations that organized prostitution activity through illegal massage parlors will not be tolerated,” police said in a statement.
In addition to shutting these businesses down, the city has charged or is considering filing criminal charges against massage parlor owners and employees for crimes relating to licensing violations as well as prostitution. In addition, the city will charge any customers who patronize these businesses and engage in acts of prostitution with the crime of patronizing a prostitute.
The Kent Police Department added that it is considering conducting a sting operation to encourage patrons to stay away from these businesses.
Through this investigation, it was discovered that while many of these businesses advertise for massages, their real purpose is to engage in prostitution. In addition, these businesses utilize employees who are not licensed by the state, fail to follow regulations to protect the health and privacy of patrons, and fail to properly post licenses.
According to Commander Scholl, there has been an increase in these types of businesses in south King County in recent months.
“It is no secret to individuals willing to pay for sex that unlicensed massage parlors are a place they can go for this activity,” he said.
Commander Scholl wanted to emphasize that not all massage businesses are illegal.
“There are a number of properly licensed and operated massage businesses that provide a great service to the community. The illegal businesses that we are targeting give legitimate massage businesses a bad name.”
According to Commander Scholl, a legitimate massage business is required to post its state license in a visible location, and all persons engaging in the business of providing massages must be licensed by the state. They are trained to provide massages in a safe manner, and follow health and privacy guidelines. Legitimate businesses often have web pages, provide medical quality massages, or are associated with other services, like spa services. Additionally, they are open during more regular business hours.