I’m glad to see the city is considering changes to its massage parlor ordinance, taking into consideration that illicit massage parlors are common venues for human trafficking. (“C.R. City Council gives first OK to massage ordinance,” Oct. 24.)
Law enforcement can help get to the root of massage parlor trafficking by focusing on organized crime investigations that investigate business ownership and follow the money — not one-off stings. Because many parlors are part of networks, if the city closes one parlor, the victims will simply be transferred to another, possibly in another city or county. This is why isolated stings don’t work.
As The Gazette article mentions, such sting operations often result in harm to victims — who are arrested for prostitution — instead of consequences for traffickers. When law enforcement instead zeros in on business owners and operators, they are able to put entire trafficking rings out of business. To ensure the safety of all potential victims, this work should be done in collaboration with a culturally competent survivor services provider.
As Cedar Rapids continues to work on strengthening its ordinance, I urge the city to make sure it is also focusing on how best it can ensure that trafficking networks are shut down for good and that all survivors are provided with assistance and services.
Director, Disruption Strategies