Saying successful efforts to shut down sexually-oriented web sides like Backpage.com have changed the game, San Antonio Police are looking to update the city's thirty year old 'massage parlor laws," News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Councilman Cruz Shaw, who represents the city's east side, sans complaints about sexual and drug activity at 'massage parlors' are up, and police need new tools to enforce the law, without infringing on the rights of legitimate businesses.
Lt. Jimmy Sides, who is the commander of the SAPD Vice Squad, says with the end of web sides like Backpage, which blatantly advertised prostitution and even sexual trafficking, the operations engaging in those activities have had to come to the surface to promote themselves.
"When we go to the Internet to look at review sites, to find out what is going on with them, you just don't find Massage Envy and other corporate owned spas, its more the local operations," he said.
"So when I say 'illegitimate,' is when I see a review that sexual activity is going on at a locations."Among the proposed new rules...outlawing living or sleeping at massage businesses, and requiring that doors to unlocked during business hours.Repeat complaints would allow the city to shut down the business.“
I’m glad this item is moving forward to the next phase for approval,” said Councilman Shaw. “Through a community-driven process, the City is creating policy that will target bad actors and eliminate activities that often contribute to human trafficking. This proposal is simply making it easier for law enforcement to do their job.”
There are 110 licensed massage parlors in the city, with about half of those being on the north central side near the airport, and on the northeast side along I-35 and Austin Highway and near Ft. Sam Houston.
Sides says with the end of Backpage, most illegitimate massage parlors are now in strip centers, while the honest businesses are in free standing buildings or in hotels and resorts.
"Because they want the exposure," Sides said. "Because with Backpage gone, their ways to advertise have been pretty much annihilated, because every illegitimate massage business in the country advertised on Backpage."