Article by City News Service

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to require routine inspections of massage parlors by health officials looking for signs of human trafficking.

Supervisor Janice Hahn recommended an ordinance that would apply to businesses in unincorporated areas of the county.

 “Some of the massage parlors in our communities have actually become safe havens for sex trafficking, for human trafficking,” Hahn said.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion, said she had seen such businesses opening in areas dominated by heavy industry, where they didn’t seem to fit.

Hahn mentioned signs offering massages for as low as $15. “I’m afraid that it’s because they’re coercing people to work there for little or no money,” she said.

Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Marks of the department’s Human Trafficking Bureau cited “a massive increase” in the number of massage businesses and told the board that nearly every complaint that comes in to the bureau results in an arrest.

The Sheriff’s Department has partnered with Polaris, a nonprofit group working to combat human trafficking. Researchers with the group found that of 1,500 separate ads for women in the massage industry, roughly 25% used telephone numbers that matched those used by websites offering a variety of sexual services.

 

“Our clients are recruited under the guise of a massage business and endure violence and severe threats and, of course, no pay and the inability to leave,” said Kay Buck, chief executive officer of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. “All of these women, very young women, are living in slave-like conditions”…

 

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