"Citizen complaints" about an increase in Surf City massage parlors led the fire, police and code enforcement departments to inspect 20 establishments and issue more than 70 violation notices that could shut down up to three suspected rub 'n' tug joints, according to the Huntington Beach Police Facebook page.
Thursday's operation was preceded by police vice squad raids that resulted in five females at three shops being arrested for alleged prostitution and other sex crimes.
The police department blames a supposed 500 percent rise in the number of massage parlors in town since 2009 on a state law passed that year and aimed at regulating the businesses and requiring licenses of massage technicians. What it has done instead, police claim, is prevent local regulation of the shops.
"Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the new businesses are not the legitimate type of massage business," reads the HBPD Facebook post. "Many advertise in erotic sections of websites. On some of these websites customers exchange information about the types and cost of illegal services provided, and customers even provide recommendations for specific massage technicians at the businesses."
Police say some giving massages--and alleged happy endings--are victims themselves, working off debts for being brought to and housed in the United States from Asian countries. For that reason, the city forces were aided in the inspections by the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force. Under questioning by detectives, some female employees admitted to performing sex acts with massage customers, police say.
Here are the hard numbers reported by cops:
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- 20 establishments inspected.
- 49 violations of the Huntington Beach Municipal Code, including lack of business licenses, unlicensed massage technicians and rubs performed with the genitals of customers exposed.
- 22 Code Enforcement and Building Safety violations that could lead to the closure of three locations if they are not up to code by the time follow-up inspections are made.