CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (KCRG-TV9)-- The Cedar Rapids Police Department wants to crack down on illicit massage parlors. Police Chief Wayne Jerman asked the public safety committee to consider an ordinance requiring a license for all massage therapy businesses in the city.
This past March, we showed you how several massage parlors are listed on secret websites as sex dens. Many can also be a front for human trafficking rings, forcing women to prostitute. The state already requires a license for massage therapists, but enforcement is difficult.
Police say requiring a city license gives them information on each massage parlor. It also lets them shut down a place faster if they find illegal activity.
Christian Shields is a member of the anti-human trafficking group Chains Interrupted. He's been working to crack down on illegal behavior at massage shops.
He says of it, “The police know that it happens in Cedar Rapids, but the law is not on their side right now. So this ordinance is gonna help them give them some tools to free some women from human trafficking and make sure everything is done above order.”
The proposal also lets police put a placard at a massage business that's unlicensed, or doing something illegal. Shields says shady things happen at massage places more than people think.
He says, "I would say we're at like epidemic levels of illicit massage parlors. Like I said 19 massage parlors in Cedar Rapids, not including Marion or Hiawatha."
Wahneta Dimmer owns hands in harmony, and has met with police about the proposal. She worries the policy will mean more fees and red tape.
She says “There's so many questions about how much is it gonna cost us, what's the verbiage going to be in the ordinance. But I think ultimately, the city is going to come up with something that's fair to us.”
She says it's worth it if it means cracking down on illegal parlors. Shields thinks it can help legit places in the long run.
Shields says, "Hopefully get that kind of activity to leave the city. Allowing licensed and legal and legitimate massage therapist that have businesses that thrive, where they don't have to compete."
Coralville's city council will talk about a similar ordinance at its meeting on the 24th.