Ten Arrests Netted in HB Massage Parlor Sweep
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Ten Arrests Netted in HB Massage Parlor Sweep

The Huntington Beach Police Department Facebook page is reporting that officers arrested 10 people on March 7 for solicitation of prostitution at local massage parlors. The department, which recently joined forces with the federally-funded Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, carried out the arrests as part of a multi-agency sweep that conducted several enforcement inspections of surf city massage parlors.

"The inspections stemmed from a series of citizen complaints regarding alleged prostitution and the recent proliferation of massage parlors in the city," the Facebook page states.

This revelation comes a week after the city council voted in favor of an amendment that would crack down on illicit providers of massage "therapy." Calls to a department spokesperson weren't returned.

During last Tuesday's meeting, Chief Kenneth Small told the council that in the wake of new  regulations  which led to the formation of the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), massage parlors have proliferated in the city (from nine in 2009 to more than 60 today). 

"Overwhelmingly," he added, these new businesses are of the "illicit" variety, and teeming with trafficked employees working under the coercion of pimps and panderers. 

"Based on our investigations in Huntington Beach, Orange County and Southern California, the women involved in most of these massage parlors are trafficked in," Small told the council.

But yesterday's Facebook post didn't mention the arrest of any traffickers.

"Often times these employees are victims of human trafficking; however, for a variety of reasons it is often difficult to prove the elements required to make further arrests," the Facebook page read.

According to Linh Tran an administrator with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF), in October of 2012 the Huntington Beach Police Department became the group's second lead agency (along with Anaheim). The task force is a multi-group collaboration between law enforcement and social service providers, which receives grant money from the United States Department of Justice.

If the city approves an amendment to its massage parlor ordinance, it would prohibit, among other things, licensed massage therapists from providing services in their own home and would require new businesses to seek approval from the city before opening. 

Ahmos Netanel CEO of the (CAMTC), told the Weekly the new ordinance seemed to be unfairly targeting licensed massage therapists. 

"State law specifies that cities can impose any sort of law they wish on massage professionals as long as they uniformly applying the same requirements on other licensed professionals," Netanel said.

The council is expected to conduct a second reading of the proposed amendment before taking a final vote.

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